I am a frontline healthcare worker in Melbourne and I’m exhausted. I could tell you stories about spending hours sweating in PPE that cuts my face, about separated families and frightened patients. But I don’t want to. Partly because I’m numb from living that reality day in, day out for eighteen months, but also because I’m sick at the thought of provoking sympathy and praise. I don’t want your admiration; I simply cannot bear it anymore. I want your solidarity.
We’ve seen a lot of rage on the streets of Melbourne in this past week, but not the kind that will help end this pandemic. While there were definitely fascists and conspiracy theory nutjobs involved, there were also plenty of construction workers and some paid-up union members at these demonstrations. I have a very simple message for them—fuck you. You represent the most backward elements of our class.
These people must be argued with and convinced out of their ideas. If they can’t be, they have no place in our union movement.
Pandering to those with so-called genuine concerns about the vaccine, at this point, is a cop out. All that does is lend legitimacy to anti-vax sentiments, which are inherently backward individualist garbage. You got questions about the vaccine? Go and see your doctor. Why the hell haven’t you done that already? Why have you waited for our ICUs to be full of COVID patients again?
You want to talk about choice? Imagine having to choose between staying with a patient so that they don’t die alone or attending another patient in need. Those are the choices healthcare workers are making every bloody day.
Meanwhile, as the number of infections rise, our hospitals are having to decide how much longer they can continue to provide surgeries for things like endometriosis or knee replacements, or how they can tinker with people’s cancer treatments to minimise the number of people in hospital beds each day and the possibility of them getting this deadly infection on top of their deadly disease.
So don’t talk to me about choice.
As trade unionists, we must fight for the health and safety for workers everywhere. This means fighting for all workers to not get infected on the job and take this virus home to infect their families. This also means taking public health measures seriously and doing what we can to lessen the impact on workers like me who are dealing with the outcome of our politicians failing to deal with this pandemic properly in the first place.
With the Victorian government’s roadmap announced, and the projected death toll pushing past 2,000 in the new year, we are bracing ourselves as the bodies start to roll in knowing that there’s plenty more to come.
Eighteen months into this pandemic, and people should be angry.
You should be raging at the fact that our drastically underfunded health system is continuing to get smashed by rising COVID numbers. You should be standing in solidarity with all essential workers by taking all public health measures seriously—which includes getting vaccinated.
And you should be demanding that the government does more to fight this virus, including keeping all non-essential businesses closed and paying workers to stay at home.