It will not do for the Tories to make a speech saluting our heroes when the virus passes – and then go back to the cuts and disrespect they habitually show. Those who fight this war for us must receive a lifelong ‘war pension’ – and if they fall in the fight, their families
The reality of the coronavirus crisis has begun to crystallise this week in the face of a tearful critical care nurse and the first critical incident declaration by a hospital overwhelmed by those suffering extreme symptoms.
This is barely the beginning. The slowness of the government to act, its failure to follow World Health Organisation recommendations to ‘test, test, test’ and its policy of merely managing the spread of the virus through the population mean that the UK is catching up on Italy and Spain.
And those in the front line of this fight are not even being provided with adequate protective equipment or tested to see if they become infected themselves.
They are going to war to save us, in mostly low-paid but now recognised as essential work – and putting their own lives at risk to do so. Many will not make it through the fight.
And when the pandemic eventually passes, the government will pay tribute to their heroism – and go as quickly as it can right back to its usual habits:
Cutting wages, reducing job security, taking away their social safety net – and denigrating ‘low-skilled’ or low-paid work.
That must not be allowed to happen.
Instead, the government must be forced by public pressure to provide concrete recognition of the self-sacrifice and bravery of those on the front-line of the war against the virus. Just as soldiers in some countries who returned from the World Wars received war pensions, those who fight now must receive a coronavirus war provision.
And it must be for life, not just when they reach retirement age.
Will it be a huge undertaking? Yes – and it needs to be. Doctors, nurses and others on the NHS front line will face hell – but workers in emergency services, teaching, retail and other roles will be in danger too. The government has shown that it can find huge sums of money and the will to use it – in the banking crisis and now in the hundreds of billions to support the economy.
They can do it – when they want to.
It is time to remake our society so that the people who are really essential are recognised and protected – instead of the usual elites. The number of people who will be putting their lives on the line in the coming months is going to be huge – and none must be taken for granted when the war is over.
A petition has been started to build public pressure on the government to commit to this recognition and reward for the incredible service that the crisis will demand of so many.
Sign it here and share it widely.
The petition says:
As the coronavirus crisis begins to bite in the UK, our front-line staff – in the NHS, emergency services, teaching, retail and other essential roles are risking their lives to save our lives. The strain can already be seen on the faces of tearful, exhausted health workers and others.
Suddenly, millions of low-paid and undervalued workers are officially ‘essential’ – but when the pandemic is over, the so-called ‘elites’ will revert to type. We must not tolerate that.
When this crisis passes, it simply will not do for the government to make a speech about their heroism and then go back to its habitual cuts, disrespect and destabilisation of these mostly low-paid heroes.
These front-line workers are fighting a war with the virus for us, knowing many of them will get sick and die as a result of their dedication. Those who do not survive will fear that their families will be left in hardship.
When this war is over, they MUST receive not just thanks but LIFELONG support: a ‘war pension’ to ensure their security and the security of their families – and it must go to the families of those who do not survive the fight, too.
Anything less than this will be a disgrace to our nation and our humanity. Make a UK that rewards and values those who really serve this country – and do it now.
Sign it here and share it widely.