“What is inspiring is just how many workers are coming together, standing together, saying no more to crap pay offers and cuts to terms and conditions and demanding better.”
This article is a published version of the speech given by Sarah Woolley, BFAWU General Secretary at the Arise Festival fringe “Taking the fight to the Tories – for Socialist Solutions to the crisis” at TUC Conference 2022.
We have had over 12 years now of austerity under a Tory Government, which has fuelled the rise of food bank Britain as living costs have continued to soar whilst pay has been cut and the social security safety net has been dismantled and we are quite literally at breaking point.
They are systematically destroying our NHS and our Education opportunities selling off sections of both to private companies so that treatment and the ability to learn has become a postcode lottery.
Public service pay freezes imposed year after year on those who keep us and the country moving yet effectively cutting their pay and living standards as a result.
They have also imposed more and more barriers and hurdles for disabled people to access the vital support they need, whether that be the cruel PIP process of simply removing services all together.
This has magnified over the last few years, firstly with the pandemic but even more now with the cost-of-living crisis, which we will feel all the more over the next few months as winter really hits. People are going to freeze, starve and die because of the Tories.
We are seeing the previously hidden daily struggles of millions of working-class families now being brought to light, there are more foodbanks than McDonalds stores in Britain which is disgraceful.
We have also seen clearly who the key workers are, who are the real people that keep our economy and our communities going when times are tough and its not the billionaires, but the food workers, transport and education staff, emergency services, postal workers, cleaners, retail staff
The list goes on and on
All those people who for years have been told to be thankful they have a job, not to push for too much as there are hundreds more people who will take their place and for who the profits for the elite have taken priority over their health, wellbeing, safety, terms, conditions and pay
The bosses and the government especially don’t care about the fact that even before the crisis we are now living through many key workers were struggling to make ends meet, food workers were running out of food last year and having difficulty covering bills, heat their homes or event get to and from work in the first place.
But we do.
What is inspiring is just how many workers are coming together, standing together, saying no more to crap pay offers and cuts to terms and conditions and demanding better.
These workers are inspiring millions of others who are now starting to believe they are worth more too, people who only a few years ago would have left one crappy job for another as that was easier than trying to change things. They are now looking at RMT and CWU members and starting to organise
We have to grasp this opportunity with both hands, that is why I’m chuffed that the BFAWU is working with Strike Map UK and Notes from below on Organise now.
Built by workers for workers, Organise Now! is a peer to peer organising network responding to the crises in work, pay and living standards. Skilled and experienced workers from across sectors are available now to help you and your co-workers organise to defend and improve your working lives and build power, we have over 110 amazing volunteers ready to support workers organise their workplace.
Organise Now is a collective of experienced workers from across the Trade Union and social justice movements, dedicated to, and with track records of, helping workers defend their pay and conditions – and to secure better work lives through collaborating with others.
We have a support form for workers who want support and advice. After submitting the form, you will receive a call within 72 hours. We will put you in touch with an experienced organiser. They will listen to you and assist you in forming a plan on how to build change.
Training, resources and support are all provided to our volunteers.
Organise Now is inspired by EWOC (the Emergency Workplace Organising Committee) in the US, which has been supporting new worker organising at Starbucks, Amazon, and more. Workers and reps across the US are connecting through EWOC. They have used the model to scale up during the pandemic and shown how effective it can be.
We will also be adding resources and materials from across the workers’ movement to the website.
No one least of all a Tory Government is going to freely give us anything they are intent on taking more off us and making it harder to stand up for our rights that they are also trying to remove.
We have to stop waiting for when we get a Labour government because there are no guarantees the leadership will give us anything either, though I know comrades from the party here with us will try their hardest.
So we have to work together across the trade union movement, build on relationships with organisations like DPAC, the Ron Todd Foundation, ACORN and the many others out there who are working towards the same things, move outside of our echo chambers to reach the millions of unorganized workers using Organise now of course to build our strength because we will need it, to fight back and force the changes we deserve, one employer and community at a time.
- Sarah Woolley is the General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union. You can follow her on twitter here; and BFAWU on Facebook and twitter.
- Sarah Woolley was speaking at the Arise Festival fringe “Take the fight to the Tories – for Socialist Solutions to the Crisis” at TUC Conference 2022, held on October 19th, 2022.