By John Sillett

The recent collapse into administration of shop group Arcadia and Debenhams’ department stores was shocking, but not unexpected. Both companies have had their assets looted by their owners; Arcadia’s owner Philip Green has become widely seen as the unacceptable face of capitalism. Whilst the vultures pick over the bones of Topshop and its relations, there has been an avalanche of redundancies in many sectors, from construction to engineering. The pandemic has hastened the collapse or rationalisation of companies depending on footfall, like retail, hospitality and tourism.

The mismanagement of the pandemic by the Johnson Government has meant people dying needlessly and prematurely. Hospital beds have been successively cut, PPE stocks have been allowed to dwindle, and small local hospitals, often specialising in recuperation and ailments that afflict older people, have been closed. A healthcare market has been allowed to undermine our NHS and untendered, unscrutinised and unsuitable companies, often with owners that have personal links to Government ministers, have been given billions of pounds worth of contracts for PPE, Covid testing and emergency facilities. This is how Britain does corruption and cronyism – by selling out the health of its people.

Ordinary people shouldn’t have to pay for problems that are not our fault. But we will pay, with our jobs or our lives, unless we fight back now.

People Before Profit is a new campaigning organisation, which has launched an emergency programme for the defence of jobs and services. PBP has the backing of leading Trade Unionists and activists, together with community campaigners and some Labour MPs. We are campaigning for safe workplaces, defending jobs, and calling for the wealthy to be taxed and for big companies declaring redundancies to be nationalised.

Importantly, PBP resolutely refuses to overlook the climate crisis. This year started with the world burning, as we saw those distressing scenes from Australia. Recently the fires have started again. PBP’s emergency plan calls for the repurposing of industries like aviation, car production and engineering to urgently address the climate crisis, end dependency on fossil fuels and provide a million climate jobs.

Deregulation, the abandonment of a welfare state and the rise of a gig economy have all been accelerated by this latest crisis. Millions of people are now encountering our broken welfare system through the door of Universal Credit. PBP calls for a welfare system that provides real social security and dignity. Universal Credit and the Bedroom Tax must both be scrapped and benefit sanctions halted. Benefit payments should be massively increased and the moratorium on housing evictions must be reinstated.

PBP have six main demands for the UK government:

  1. Extend the furlough scheme for at least a year to defend jobs
  2. Guarantee safe workplaces and respect worker action that highlights unsafe practice
  3. Tax the wealthy – don’t make working people pay for the crisis
  4. End outsourcing and fast-track the public ownership of public services
  5. Invest in the green economy, immediately and at scale
  6. Rebuild a welfare system that provides real security and dignity

People Before Profit is not a competitor to any other anti-austerity group or campaign but seeks to work with and support those campaigns. The launch of PBP East Anglia will take place on 11th December at 7pm via zoom. Jane Loftus, vice president of the Communication Workers Union, will be lead speaker, and Jo Rust of Kings Lynn Trades Union Council will be chairing. See the PBP Facebook page or email for further details. Local groups are being set up in Norwich and King’s Lynn with Fenland.

Featured image credit: People Before Profit

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