“We must shout loudly and fight back strongly if we are to stop workers paying the price for the pandemic and the cost of living crisis – just as it was workers and our public services that paid the cost of the banking crisis.”
By Kate Osborne MP
The membership of the Tory Party are currently watching campaigns from Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss trying to out Thatcher each other, the options those members have to choose the next Prime Minister is to slash and burn incompetently or to slash and burn in a fancy suit, with pledges to cut all public sector pay and promises to damage the impact of the Trade Union movement.
As a committed Trade Unionist before entering parliament, it pains me to see that workers are continuing to see their pay and conditions irretrievably damaged. Whilst the Tories continue to put their party before the country.
The current wave of industrial action we are seeing across multiple sectors inspires people to fight back, and shows their is an alternative.
Trade Unions standing up for members in the face of attacks against workers this summer. I am proud to have stood on picket lines for the RMT and the CWU, and wish workers across all sectors in similar disputes, all of the best for standing strong during industrial action this summer.
We must shout loudly and fight back strongly if we are to stop workers paying the price for the pandemic and the cost of living crisis – just as it was workers and our public services that paid the cost of the banking crisis and have continued to pay ever since.
The argument is as always a political one, it is economic madness to continue to privatise our NHS and public services – we get less for more.
Workers have faced pay cuts for decades and this year alone in real terms pay will go down by more than 4% – with food and energy prices sky rocketing many families will be pushed into poverty.
In my constituency of Jarrow 38% of children are already in poverty – a political choice by this government to neglect the north, neglect the working class and neglect communities – only caring about the few.
The Tory Party leadership candidates are determined to cut taxes for those who can afford to pay and to attack those who are struggling. A clear illustration of their complete disregard for the wellbeing and general interests of the many, as they seek to protect the financial interests of the few.
Nowhere is this hypocritical rhetoric more evident than in sectors such as the railways, telecommunications, and energy companies. Here the common theme of safeguarding profits, and the value of shareholders at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions go hand in glove.
A Government, which supports these companies by allowing this behaviour, provides evidence of a contempt for workers in this country.
Contempt, which is reinforced by unfairness and inequality. Whilst workers endure some of the highest rates of inflation across the G7 with an RPI rate of inflation of 11.8%.
It is a national disgrace, as was pointed out on the CWU picket line that there are food banks in BT Offices in the North, whilst the CEO takes a 32% pay rise.
This shocking indictment in one of the most recognisable private sector companies, cements the deep and longstanding roots of unfairness and inequality across Britain today. Against the backdrop of this action, it is vital to remember that BT have made an increased, £1.3 billion in annual profit, with CEO Philip Jansen pay package overall being a £3.5 million.
Similarly with the action undertaken by the RMT, against the private rail companies and Network Rail – An industry which continues to make ‘£500m in profits annually’
It is evidently clear that despite all this profit these companies are seeking to use the opportunity to destroy workers’ conditions and safety standards. Grant Shapps on the one hand insisting he will not intervene and will not meet with the rail unions – and in the next moment criticising workers for not working on their rest days!
All this at the same time as denying much needed long-term investment in our aging system, and ensuring pay-packets for those at the top are protected. In a safety critical industry, such as the railways, this mindset of the private sector and Government of using inflation as an excuse to decimate our buckling infrastructure should concern workers throughout such industries.
Across the Labour and Trade Union Movement, faced with such serious and significant challenges, trade unions are responding with record turnouts in balloting members, for Industrial Action (CWU: 95.8% for Openreach engineers, and 91.5% for BT Workers & RMT: 40,000 members participating on a day of action).
It is now the responsibility of the Labour Party to harness this energy and worker’s discontent, to redress the balance of power in this country. An opportunity to put an end to a system, which prioritises the value of profits and shares, against the safety and conditions of workers. To put public services over private profit and an opportunity to finally fight back for a better society – I hope the trade unions and the Labour Party seize it.
- Kate Osborne is the MP for Jarrow and a regular columnist for Labour Outlook. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
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