WEST Dunbartonshire's top union officials are already looking to the future and vowing the force "drastic" change out of the coronavirus pandemic.

A digital meeting held last week brought together members from across the trade union movement to discuss "Covid and Class Politics".

There was united fury over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly for care homes and social care.

But the conveners were also angry over the decade of austerity that led into the pandemic and fears even deeper cuts will be used to pay for it.

Margaret Wood, West Dunbartonshire convenor of the Unite union, said the crisis had focused attention on how interdependent the country is and "being self-sufficient as an island should be one of our highest priorities".

She said: "It should remind us of the value of frontline workers. We need to change; we cannot go back to where we were."

Ms Wood urged a return to manufacturing in Britain and less importing of goods, as well as deprioritising growth.

She said: "Going forward, we need to ask ourselves, how do we quantify wealth. We must change quickly and drastically."

Val Jennings, Unison convenor in West Dunbartonshire, said the pandemic had highlighted that the real key workers were many of society's lowest paid and female workers.

She blasted: "I continue to be astounded by the inaction of government. I'm angry our members were not given PPE until our members threatened to withdraw labour.

"Why did it take the government so long to act?"

Ms Jennings said the lack of action and deaths in care homes was a "scandal we should never forget".

But she also asked what would all levels of government now cut to pay for the pandemic's costs.

"Years of austerity means there's nothing left to cut," she said. "Workers and services were at breaking point before the virus hit. We must fight and fight hard."

And she urged the creation of a "fairer" society that values "community and people and quality of life". Ms Jennings said transport, energy and privatised social services needed to be taken back into public ownership.

She added: "We must learn from this crisis, but we will need to fight for it."

The digital meeting was organised by the readers and supporters of the Morning Star newspaper.

There was hesitation expressed about the potential and hurdles of introducing a universal basic income (UBI), something that has gained increased attention in recent months as billions are spent paying furloughed workers' wages. The convenors in particular had questions about whether it could create an "underclass" or undermine collective bargaining.

Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, said the pandemic had made it clearer to people what trade unions existed to do, pushing on testing, on more PPE being produced in Scotland, and on pay protection.

She said: "The working class deserve a payback and deserve it now. It's our collective power as workers that gets the best steps forward."