“On budget day itself, the NEU, PCS and others took 100,000s of workers out, in exactly the kind of co-ordinated action that is needed to roll back the Tory offensive.”
By Matt Willgress, Labour Assembly Against Austerity
We are in the middle of the deepest cost-of-living crisis in generations, yet you wouldn’t have known it from the ‘(big) business as usual’ tone of Jeremy Hunt’s Budget on March 15.
With the partial and extremely limited exception of an extension in childcare support, the Tories yet again showed that they are more interested in doing the bidding of their rich backers than saving lives, jobs and livelihoods. Even the limited measures they announced will be undercut by their dogmatic adherence to a never-ending cuts agenda.
The difference to many previous Tory austerity budgets though is the context – where more and more people are saying ‘enough is enough,’ including through the industrial action that continues to take place across numerous sectors of the economy.
Even on budget day itself, the NEU, PCS and others took 100,000s of workers out, in exactly the kind of co-ordinated action that is needed to roll back the Tory offensive.
Large and supportive public rallies took place across the country. What’s more these were sandwiched between significant national demonstrations against other elements of the Tories’ reactionary agenda – one to save our NHS, and one to resist racism. As well as being part of – and massively building – these acts of resistance, the Labour Left also needs to put forward a radical alternative to the current economic consensus. And this alternative must be radical enough to address the deep crisis Britain is facing.
As part of this important discussion on what such an alternative looks like, the Labour Assembly Against Austerity is seeking support for the following programme of ten demands included in our ‘Workers Can’t Wait’ petition:
☑️ Britain needs a pay rise – National Minimum Wage raised to at least £15 an hour for all; the pay rise public sector workers are asking for; increase Statutory Sick Pay to a real living wage for all from day one.
☑️ A social security system to end poverty – reverse the Universal Credit cut and extend the uplift to legacy benefits; boost & inflation-proof benefits; for a minimum income guarantee.
☑️ Control costs – energy price freezes now at April 2022 rates, cap rents and basic food costs.
☑️ Stop the corporate rip-off – public ownership of energy, water, transport, broadband and mail to bring bills down and end fuel poverty. Lower public transport costs. Higher taxes on profits and the super-rich. Open the books – back the workers’ commission on profiteering.
☑️ Extra resources to create universal, comprehensive public services – stop cuts and privatisation; Save our NHS – for a national care service; properly fund local government.
☑️ Homes for all – no evictions or repossessions; tackle the homelessness emergency; fix the housing crisis with a mass council house building programme.
☑️ For the right to food – enshrine the right to food in law; universal free school meals all year; for a National Food Service.
☑️ Decent jobs for all – for full employment; end insecure working and ban zero-hours contracts; for the right to flexible work on workers’ not bosses’ terms.
☑️ Defend and extend our right to organise – reverse anti-trade union laws and repeal the anti-protest laws; ban fire-and-rehire; for full union rights to bargain for better pay and conditions.
☑️ End austerity for good – invest in our future with a Green New Deal – end the dependency on fossil fuels and soaring oil and gas prices; for a massive investment in renewables, green infrastructure and jobs; insulate buildings to bring bills down.
At the time of writing, over 21,000 people have endorsed this programme.
We hope it can provide a basis for discussions across the Left, anti-Tory resistance movements and beyond on what we should be demanding at this critical time.
- You can add your name to the Workers Can’t Wait petition here.
- This article was originally published in the March ’23 edition of Labour Briefing.
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