“We saw Conservative politicians trotting out the most spurious lines about wage price spirals and the need for wage restraint. But the fact is, it just wasn’t true!”
This article is a published version of the speech given by Rebecca Long-Bailey MP at the “Johnson is gone – Now let’s win a a new deal for workers!” event held on Monday, July 11th. Read her contribution or watch the meeting in full below:
We are now in the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis in over 30 years and as winter hits we face economic misery.
Even the mainstream pundits are ringing the alarm bells. Last week Martin Lewis, the money expert warned of civil unrest if the Government did not do more to help people manage rising energy costs.
Fourteen and a half million people are living in poverty, Including over four million children and two thirds of these children live in a household where at least one person is in work.
But rather than help support working people, this government has offered pitiful levels of support at the same time as restoring Bankers bonuses and allowing energy companies make billions in profit.
On wages, right across the country they are being dwarfed by skyrocketing inflation. And remember this is on top of 12 years of austerity, deliberate job casualisation and wage freezes.
And when workers dare to stand up and say we need a pay rise to survive this: The Government treats them with derision and contempt.
We saw how they responded to the RMT strike, they stoked division, they wanted a Thatcher moment to divide the nation and demonise trade unions.
But they were in for a surprise weren’t they. They weren’t ready for Mick Lynch and they underestimated the support the public gave RMT members, because the people of this country are decent, and they knew that this wasn’t just about rail workers suffering poor pay at the hands of an unscrupulous government and employer, this was bigger than that.
It was a fight for workers all over the country. A fight against excessive greed and austerity.
And so realising this the Government responded with spin. We saw Conservative politicians trotting out the most spurious lines about wage price spirals and the need for wage restraint. But the fact is, it just wasn’t true!
Wage restraint might have been a valid argument if the cause of our inflation was increasing wages. But this isn’t the case! Far from it!
Inflation was actually caused by storm of factors including the war in Ukraine, pandemic disruption to global supply chains and frankly, the profiteering of large corporations in response to the inflationary environment.
That’s why using the economic arguments for a simple wage price spiral will actually damage the economy further and suck out demand making the prospect of a deep recession even more likely.
The picture looks even bleaker when you see the emerging policy positions of the Tory leadership candidates. They are all trying to out do each other on Corporation tax cuts instead of bolstering tax take to fund public spending, support those struggling and increase public investment in industrial strategy to support wage and economic growth across the spectrum.
And so it’s up to us to fill the ideas vacuum and there are a few urgent actions we need to demand to protect our communities. Demanding the inflation-proofing of incomes is key, as is providing short-term protection against rising prices through price controls of rent, energy prices, food and fuel.
But beyond that we need a New Deal for Workers, a new social settlement for the working people of Britain.
A deal that makes the bosses and the wealthy pay their fair share of tax, instead of breaking the backs of people in our communities.
A deal that demands universal, publicly-owned utilities to bring down bills and drive up investment in a real green new deal.
And a deal that ends the era of bandit capitalism and protects and extend the rights of workers. That respects the dignity of work with a dignified pay packet.
It’s simple: a company that does well should pay well, there are simply no excuses left any more.
I think it is clear, the Labour movement has spoken. It won’t sit around waiting, hoping for political change or that some political leader will come along like a knight in shining armour to fight with them for a decent life for all.
One by one workers are realising “if not me then who, who will stand up and fight for my quality of life?”.
They are realising the political power they hold within themselves. Rail workers are standing up, teachers and school staff are standing up, NHS workers are standing up and the more who stand up, more will stand with them.
A Movement is building. A movement to fight for a radical, transformative agenda for working people. And its time to pick a side. You are either on the side of working people or you are not. Decide.
And honestly, I think that scares the Government. It scares them because they know that the more politically awakened people become the more their days will be numbered.
And so the Government will do everything they can to stop this awakening of social and political consciousness. We’ve already seen this Government pass laws to curtail the right to protest but tonight as we speak the Government is trying to pass a law in Parliament to enable employers to bring in agency workers to break strikes. Legislation that will pit worker against worker, deliberately inflame industrial disputes and ultimately stamp out the ability of workers to collectively bargain for decent terms and pay.
And as Mick Lynch said:
“If we are not bargaining, we have to beg, I don’t want any working-class people in this country to have to beg their employers for a decent living”
And neither do I, neither do you, so, stand up, speak out and proudly and publicly support every worker fighting industrial disputes. Demand the quality of life we all deserve in this country, one of the richest economies on earth.
And always remember this famous saying: “I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees”
- Rebecca Long-Bailey is the MP for Salford and Eccles, you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
- This article is a published version of a speech given by Rebecca Long-Bailey at an Arise Festival 2022 event hosted on Monday, 11th July: “Johnson is gone – Now let’s win a a new deal for workers!”
- You can view all past and upcoming Arise Festival 2022 sessions here.