This is not a lockdown

It’s May Day, the day when we celebrate international workers’ day. But in England many workers have nothing to celebrate: what the papers call a lockdown isn’t stopping employers from forcing people to come in to work non-essential jobs.

Caroline Molloy, in OpenDemocracy:

we don’t actually have a lockdown. The government has allowed people to continue to go to work – and allowed bosses to make people continue to go to work – far more than we’re being led to believe, and far more than most of the media seem to have noticed.

And as openDemocracy has just exposed, across large sections of the economy, many workers in ‘non essential’ jobs are being forced to show up to potentially dangerous workplaces. And some have already got sick. And some have already died.

51% of the people currently working are not working from home.

In England, unlike in Scotland and Wales, the government has not even introduced any new legal sanctions if offices, call centres, factories, construction sites, warehouses, and so on, don’t enable social distancing in the workplace. English bosses are expected to “make every effort to comply” with social distancing, but not legally mandated to do anything. Indeed, as “lockdown” progresses, the non-binding guidance has been watered down

It’s hard to disagree with Molloy’s argument that the reason the media isn’t highlighting this is yet another example of a myopic media class: if they can’t see it, it can’t be happening.

The baristas and bookshops aren’t there, and who really knows anyone who works in a call centre, factory, or warehouse?