“I am getting enthused and engaged.. people are understanding there IS a them and us.”Mick Whelan, ASLEF General Secretary.
By Matt Willgress, Labour Outlook.
Leading speakers from across the trade union and labour movement joined a London Morning Star rally simply entitled “Solidarity with Strikers” on Wednesday.
Chaired by writer and campaigner Mary Davis, the event heard large applause as speaker after speaker stood in solidarity with the 100,000s of workers taking action to protect jobs and livelihoods during the deepening cost-of-living crisis.
Opening the event ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan sent solidarity to the UCU rally going on at the same time and highlighted the creeping authoritarianism of the Tory regime.
Looking at the new waves of resistance to the ruling-class offensive, he said “I am getting enthused and engaged.. people are understanding there IS a them and us.. with a ‘flexibilty’ that is not for the worker but purely the employer.”
He added that he was proud to see people standing together “in unity and solidarity,” concluding that workers will fight and will win.
Eddie Dempsey of the RMT then said it was important we didn’t let the Government “isolate rail workers in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis.”
What was happening instead was a growth of support for the message trade unions including the RMT, CWU, UCU and Unite are putting forward, and more and more workers are understanding that “We can no longer live in a country where profits are prioritised over the needs of people.”
Sarah Jane McDonaugh, a TSSA industrial rep at Euston station, explained why they had recently been on strike and would be again, pointing to attacks on workers’ rights, terms and conditions.
NEU President Daniel Kebide argued that “every strike in this country was a strike against poverty,” and outlined the shocking child poverty that all teachers were seeing each day in school.
Helen O’Connor from GMB Southern Region developed key themes of the event, explaining how the crisis we are facing is not a one-off and we have entered a period of great instability, with the capitalist class rolling back rights “to Victorian times,” leading to a class war at the deepest level for generations.
This also meant more and more privatisation, to which the alternative is public ownership – “we need to control what we create,” and this is part of fighting hard for a socialist alternative for our class.
Ruth Hayes, Unite EC member & regular ‘Labour Outlook’ columnist, started by saying now it is unions “who are setting the agenda and offering hope.”
In the last year alone Unite has had over 300 disputes involving some 50,000 workers, and key disputes are taking place currently across the many sectors Unite represents.
She also highlighted the “Save London’s buses” campaign – uniting workers and passengers across communities against the proposed axing of 250 buses and 16 routes.
She concluded that we need “radical solutions that would mean real change.”
Marian Carry from UCU at Goldsmiths outlined the big struggles that have taken place there, and the massive support they have received from across the movement, explaining why we need to get ready to back these battles in education in the months ahead.
The ‘uberisation’ of both the Higher Education and Further Education sectors is deepening and this has led to growing anger, as represented by recent and upcoming UCU disputes.
Russell Fraser spoke of the recent – and first time ever – Criminal Barristers Association industrial action, soon entering its sixth week of dispute.
In a sector where such action may previously have been unthinkable, workers have been forced into action by sustained attacks on their terms and conditions, with vicious Tory austerity deeply damaging the Criminal Justice system.
Lord John Hendy QC, the barrister champion of the trade union movement, meanwhile highlighted the imminent further attacks coming on our already paltry trade union rights, and how this is happening as “the cost-of-living crisis is about to hit us like a tidal wave,” and resistance is deepening.
At the moment a “transfer of wealth from labour to capital which is almost unparalleled” is taking place – and the fights against it are a *fight for the entire working class.” This is why we must express our solidarity and say “enough is enough.”
And the predictable Tory response includes further attacks on workers’ rights, many against international law, with the favourite to be the next Prime Minister Liz Truss leading the charge.
As well as resisting these fresh attacks, the solutions we put forward to the crisis must include a ‘profiteering tax’, public ownership and – crucially – extending collective bargaining across the economy.
Final speaker ‘Morning Star’ Editor Ben Chacko outlined the extent of the deepening crisis, slamming the pathetic Tory response and pointing out how Labour’s leadership is only putting forward extremely limited proposals.
The extent of the crisis, and how many people it is effecting, means that everyone can see why workers across the economy are taking action and why so many people understand the need to back the strike wave.
As we enter a “golden era for the super-rich” but no one else, the old Thatcher argument that “there is no alternative” no longer cut it with millions of people. Now there is a growing space to talk about the redistribution of wealth and power, and the need to side with labour in its battles with capital.
This writer like many others left the event enthused and determined to back the strike wave, and indeed to support the ‘Morning Star’ in their vital work backing it.
Messages of support were also received from the Peoples’ Assembly, the CPB, the IER, the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the CWU.
- You can watch the stream of the event on the Morning Star Facebook page here.