“The budget day of action was an inspiring day, filled with workers standing together in solidarity and marching shoulder to shoulder to demand a decent pay rise for all workers.”
By Logan Williams
Jeremy Hunt presented his Spring budget to parliament on Wednesday which clearly reinforced the Tories neoliberal economic agenda. Hunt’s budget makes no attempt to address the causes of inflation.
Instead, it seeks to further entrench the neoliberal economic agenda that has plagued Britain for the last forty years by offering £9 billion in tax cuts to corporations when corporate profits are rising, 6 billion pounds worth of cuts to fuel duty and at least £2 billion worth of tax cuts for pensions of the highest earners. This budget was a budget for the Westminster bubble not the working classes.
However, whilst Jeremy Hunt was introducing his budget, the labour movement was making a very different kind of Budget Day statement, one on the streets. We saw 300,000 NEU teaching staff members, 133,000 PCS civil service members, 70,000 UCU lecturers, tens of thousands of Junior Doctors from the BMA, tens of thousands of Prospect public sector members, local reporter members of the NUK and, both ASLEF and RMT members on the London Underground all taking to the streets and to picket lines to escalate the fight for fair pay.
In London we saw tens of thousands of labour movement activists; including myself and over fifty other members of my branch many of whom were taking action for the first time, take to the streets in a National Day of Action called for by the NEU alongside our comrades in PCS, BMA, HCSA and, the UCU.
We marched from Speaker’s corner in Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square in a procession that took over an hour for the back of the march to even set off from Hyde Park due to the swelling crowds of chanting strikers; I should know as my union district were forming the rear of the march. Throughout the march, the strikers were energised by samba bands organised by NEU union districts like Bristol and coordinated chants which ranged from “They say cut back, we say fight back” to “Heeeeeeeeeey, Hey Rishi! Oooh! Ahhh! I want to knoooooow when you’ll fund our schools” to “S.O.S! Save Our Schools!”.
Throughout the march, we received huge amounts of support from members of the public ranging from construction workers matching the beat of the drums using their tools on scaffolding to, transport workers honking as they drove past to, students and parents cheering on their striking teachers.
Upon our arrival in Trafalgar Square we were met with messages of solidarity and hope from a fantastic range of platform speakers including Emma Runswick, Deputy Chair of the BMA, who highlighted that 70,000 Junior Doctors pay has been “cut by 26% in real terms since 2008” and that the BMA “won’t politely acquiesce while our standards of living plummet while the costs of everything else goes up”. Emma went on to argue that “the government seeks to divide our movement, but we have never been so organised”.
Next, we were joined by the inspirational Zarah Sultana MP who began her speech by thanking every member of staff in education for all they do to inspire the next generation despite “the constant pressures placed upon” us. Zarah went on to argue that “our working class in all its beautiful diversity is standing together as one and saying ‘we have had enough’”.
Our next speaker was Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union, who began his speech by thanking all of those workers undertaking strike action on budget day which included 133,000 PCS members. Mark went on to say that “PCS members who work for the government are forced to work for the national minimum wage and, have had the government threaten to cut tens of thousands of their jobs”. Mark ended his speech by stating “we welcome any union that is in talks and gets a better pay rise for their members but, our message is this, no worker should be left behind… Victory to every union that is on strike and victory to every striking worker in the public and private sectors”.
The budget day of action was an inspiring day, filled with workers standing together in solidarity and marching shoulder to shoulder to demand a decent pay rise for all workers. However, we cannot allow this day of action to be a footnote in the history of the British labour movement. We must see the energy and the feeling of solidarity which is being forged across our unions maintained throughout these disputes and beyond.
We must see union branches and reps reaching out to those workers undertaking industrial action for the first time and engage them within our movement. We must see the entire labour movement come together to forge a progressive alternative to the stale neoliberal policies of stagnation offered by the Tories because as the great James Connolly once said, “For our demands most moderate are, We only want the earth”.