Radical roundup: 10 stories you may have missed this week

Left Foot Forward's roundup of the progressive news that got buried.

In no particular order…PS: Got a story tip? Email us: [email protected]

10. On the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act (today), Labour Leader Keir Starmer MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Marsha De Cordova MP have called for a new right for women to know what a male colleague doing the same work is paid.

Fawcett Society campaigners say it is necessary to bring the Act up to date for workplaces in 2020. The demand comes after an investigation by the Institute for Fiscal studies into the impact of Covid-19 on working families found mothers are almost 50% more likely to have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and research from the national poverty charity Turn2Us, that has found that women’s incomes are falling more steeply than men’s during the crisis.

9. A survey of staff at special educational needs and disability schools (SEND) shows serious questions about safety when they reopen remain unanswered.

The vast majority of staff in special schools (96%) are unable to maintain social distancing. Half of members working in special schools (49%) fear for their personal safety. And 86% think clear scientific evidence on children as carriers must be presented before wider opening of special schools, according to the National Education Union.

Staff told the union: “It is not just risky, it is dangerous. We have had cases already and people are getting ill.” Another said: “The children in our setting do not understand social distancing.”

One staff member added: “The children don’t socially distance and we have had some instances of spitting and needing to physically manage children due to them attacking other children or staff. Therefore, I can’t say that it is a safe environment.”

8. The government’s ban on evictions is set to end at the end of June – and influential MPs and housing experts are calling on the government to give courts and judges more powers to stop evictions.

It could help thousands of families struggling to pay rent keep their homes. But so far, the government has stayed silent…

38 Degrees are pushing a petition to ensure no-one is evicted as a result of the coronavirus crisis. They want judges to have the power to protect renters from evictions due to rent arrears, and to extend the ban on evictions until the law is amended.

7. Legal campaigners are challenging the Attorney General’s defence of Dominic Cummings, which came despite a clear breach of lockdown measures.

In a letter to ministers this week, the Good Law Project said they “find it hard to see how the Attorney General’s actions in relation to the Cummings’ debacle have been consistent with the role’s obligations to be impartial.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, Attorney General Suella Braverman advised Cabinet that “no laws have been broken” and said that the Cabinet should back Cummings. “We do not understand how she could properly have given that advice. We are also concerned about what effect, as the superintendent of the CPS, and the person who appoints the Director of Public Prosecutions, this politicisation of her role might have,” the Good Law Project said.

6. Medical couriers transporting Covid-19 samples on behalf of NHS pathology contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL)  have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

It comes in response to the company’s decision to make redundancies during the pandemic, and its failure to address health and safety concerns.

The couriers’ union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), has also filed a trade union victimisation and whistleblower victimisation claim against the company at the employment tribunal on behalf of eight of its members, which are being made redundant on ‘bogus grounds’. The vast majority of the ten workers being targeted for redundancy have been active in demanding better and safer working conditions, the union says.

5. The NHS Support Federation said almost a billion pounds worth of debt are weighing down local NHS trust as they start to plan care for the next year – with 7 million patients now on growing waiting lists. Read the story here.

4. Eighteen domestic abuse and women’s rights organisations have written to Jacob Rees-Mogg MP to state it is unacceptable to require survivors of domestic abuse to attend parliament in person to give their views on the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The groups – which include Women’s Aid Federation of England, Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Southall Black Sisters – have written to the Leader of the House of Commons to urge the government to reconsider the requirement that survivors giving evidence next week to the Domestic Abuse Public Bill Committee must only do so in person – despite current Covid-19 government guidelines.

The letter has been sent before MPs return to parliament next week. The previous ‘hybrid parliament’ arrangements, where individuals could provide evidence to scrutiny committees via video link, are set to end.

3. Extinction Rebellion’s ‘HS2 Rebellion’ held a day of socially distanced ‘synchronised bat actions’ on Friday.

The group say that thousands of potential bat roosts are being permanently destroyed, marking a ‘death sentence for bats and other wildlife’.  HS2 has cleared hundreds of trees during bird nesting and wildlife breeding season, flouting wildlife laws, according to XR. Campaigners say they have witnessed HS2 ripping down trees with bat boxes and birds nests in them, then immediately chipping the evidence.

The protests took place along the HS2 line – including Euston, Colne Valley in Uxbridge, Steeple Claydon and Wendover in Buckinghamshire, and Crackley and Broadwells woods in Warwickshire. Some blocked HS2 compounds to delay the ‘destructive’ work.

2. Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Stephen Timms has written to the Prime Minister about the lack of support available during the coronavirus pandemic for people whose immigration status means that they have no recourse to public funds.

During Wednesday’s Liaison Committee session with Boris Johnson, Mr Timms highlighted the problems faced by people, including families with children born in the UK, who despite having leave to remain in the UK are unable to access benefits such as Universal Credit. Boris Johnson did not appear to know that some people have No Recourse to Public Funds status.

At the meeting, the Prime Minister promised to investigate how many people were in that situation and what the Government could do to help them.

1. Anxiety is widespread among school workers about their safety, their families’ and that of pupils ahead of a return to the classroom across England, according to Unison.

On the day unions are due to meet with education secretary Gavin Williamson, Unison has published a catalogue of concerns from support staff who make up more than half the schools’ workforce.

Teaching assistants, catering staff, administrative workers, caretakers and other school employees have told the union they are being banned from wearing protective masks, denied gloves when handing packed lunches to parents and being spat at by children with behavioural issues.

In separate findings, a survey by UNISON based on responses from 12,781 support staff has found that three in ten (30%) are losing sleep, suffering high anxiety or both as a result of plans to open schools more widely in England. Only a small minority (4%) said that schools had adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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