The Health Worker Rank-and-File Committee (HWRFC) and the Committee on Public Education (CFPE) in Australia held an online public meeting on Sunday, 20 November, titled “Educators and Health Workers Unite: Ending COVID Safeguards” Resist doing!lives before profit!
The meeting was attended by over 150 participants, including nurses and other health workers, primary, secondary and tertiary level teachers, activists from various sectors, as well as students and youth. Attendees came to the meeting not only from across Australia, but also from the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
CFPE member and educator Patrick O’Connor, who chaired the event, placed the meeting in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the abandonment of public health measures by governments around the world. “This ongoing disaster is not purely a natural disaster,” he said. “It is rather, and centrally, a politically engineered social crime.”
A nine-minute video was shown, highlighting the scale of the COVID-19 crisis and the criminality of governments in causing it. Check out the video here.
HWRFC convenor and Socialist Equality Party (SEP) member Julia Thomas said the public meeting was initiated by a discussion in one of the rank-and-file committees. This was “an indication of the effort for united action by the workers and the importance of these committees in carrying forward this fight.”
He called Albania’s Labor government ending isolation requirements and the pandemic holiday a “declaration of war against working people” and “a long overdue final step on any coordinated public health response to the pandemic in this country”. described.
As the virus spreads rapidly, driven by the Omicron variant amid declining levels of vaccine immunity, the government has scrapped any remaining restrictions and sought to silence opponents of the “Let it Rip” program. “An important role of rank-and-file committees is to mobilize activists to defend those who are under attack for exposing the truth,” Thomas said.
In July, the HWRFC launched a campaign to defend Dr. David Berger, a physician threatened with deregistration by AHPRA because of his vocal opposition to the “herd immunity” program and condemnation of COVID misinformation on social media.
Thomas emphasized the important role played by trade unions in suppressing growing protests among health workers about the deterioration of their working conditions due to the pandemic.
“To fight for their interests, workers must know who their friends and their enemies are.” he explained. “Your allies in these struggles are all the workers in this country and around the world. But you cannot fight with your hands tied behind your back. Workers must be independent of organizations that act as policemen for governments and big business.” “
For the struggling nurses in NSW and Victoria, the critical next step is to “break away from the union bureaucracy and form rank-and-file committees to develop demands based on what they really need, not That what management says is cheap.”
The second speaker, Katie Kinnear, a nurse from California and member of SEP (US), detailed the appalling conditions in emergency departments in US hospitals. He outlined many of the same issues health workers in Australia face, including staff shortages, excessive workload, privatization of hospitals and low pay.
“Mass anger exists among nurses,” Kinnear said. “But the role of the committee is to question the removal of the profit motive from healthcare and fight for socialism, because it is the capitalist system that is creating these unsafe conditions.”
Craig Wallace, a leading disability activist and spokesperson for Australia Against COVID, spoke on the devastating toll the pandemic has had on disabled and immuno-compromised people.
Wallace said the millions who have died from COVID-19 “have been sacrificed to a preventable disease that has been allowed to spread for reasons of profit, opportunism, lies, conspiracy and political cowardice. It is social murder.” And this is eugenics. This is the slow killing of the unwanted.
In a detailed presentation, Wallace outlined a series of statistics that corroborated this assessment. In Britain, sixty percent of those who died of Covid were among people with disabilities. They were three times more likely to die from the virus than the general population.
Wallace said: “I will be criticized for speaking here today, but I don’t care because we are in a struggle for life and death. In that struggle, people with disabilities must look without reservation to political allies who are our ready to resist at the sacrifice of life.”
The final speaker was Sue Phillips, an elementary school teacher who is the national coordinator for CFPE and a member of the SEP national committee. He pointed out that the CFPE had published a statement in March 2020 calling for the closure of schools and the formation of action committees to protect teachers, students and the wider community.
An essential component of the ruling class’ drive to reopen the economy and reverse the lockdown was the full reopening of schools. Phillips explained, “Teachers were forced to do face-to-face learning. This was vital to the government’s strategy, not in the interest of educating children or their mental health, but to get their parents back into workplaces.” For.
Despite teachers’ willingness to fight, as shown by the many votes to strike in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, these struggles were stifled by education unions, whose task was to “live with the virus”. The agenda had to be implemented.
Phillips described rank-and-file committees as “democratic organizations where decisions about safety and working conditions are not decided from above, but discussed democratically without suppression and censorship from unions and employers.” And the decision is taken.” Globally coordinated such committees should “organize integrated action in schools, universities, hospitals and other medical workplaces against this new phase of Covid, aimed at advancing the interests of workers, putting life before profit.” “
This was followed by a lively question-and-answer segment, in which workers shared their experiences of the pandemic in schools and aged care facilities. Mandy, a CFPE member and a Melbourne school teacher for 20 years, said, “We cannot accept this, and I completely agree that it is up to staff to take matters into their own hands.”
What issues arose in US rank-and-file committees, as well as questions from Katy Kinnear about the dangers to nurses from repeated infections.
An important manifestation of the meeting’s international character was the presence of many prominent members of rank-and-file committees of education activists in other countries, some of whom presented salutations to be read aloud at the meeting. They included Tania Kent from the UK, Dylan Lubao from Canada and Rene Kasimeda and Steve Light from the US.
Steve Light, who attended from New York City, thanked “Australian healthcare and education rank-and-file workers for showing the way to unite, which can be a model for workers internationally and across economic sectors.”
That was followed by closing remarks by SEP national secretary Cheryl Crisp, who said that an open, democratic discussion of the science of the pandemic was impossible at union meetings, and could only be facilitated by the SEP and grassroots organizations such as Australians Against COVID was being provided.
Crisp placed the discussion in the wider context of a historic breakdown of global capitalism, the slide toward nuclear war, and an offensive by governments at home against the working class, in which unions play an important role.
“It is necessary to draw conclusions from what we are discussing, from the experiences of ordinary people, and those are political conclusions,” he said.
Before the meeting ended, Crisp encouraged participants to “think very seriously about the need to join our party, fight for the development of a society in which humanity can live, free from war, deprivation, and disease.
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