This government have failed miserably to deal with the cost of living crisis but in doing so they are deliberately trying to distract from their failure by picking a fight with trade unions and the current wave of industrial action is a reaction to that failure. There is no alternative to such aggressive behaviour, we simply need to rise to that challenge and fight back and stand together supporting our members and their families. A union is not a union if it negates its own action. No matter how much the right wing press vilify, in the most disparaging way our right to protect workers and to withdraw our labour when faced with the intransigence of employers and the interference of government for political objective, we need to stand firm and we stand together.
Britain already has the worst trade union rights in Western Europe, this cannot continue. Enough is enough! Whichever way you look at all this, what we are seeing is a class-based law when/should it reaches the statute book our unions will be left with no other choice but to raise the political level of their members and strike back.
If history teaches us anything, it instructs us that laws cannot always be upheld if they are designed to keep the people in check. We cannot allow this to happen. These laws are designed to neuter the effectiveness of organised labour and ultimately destroy the legitimacy of our movement. Surprised? Nothing new about this type of right-wing government’s action and their inherent dislike for organised labour. We have faced off these challenges in the past but the intensity and sheer viciousness of this current Tory government elevates, even by their standards, the bitterness and contempt they hold for trade unions.
The mentality never changes, it goes back to 1799 and the Combination Act banning trade unions followed through the centuries with later attempts to cripple working class influence, right through the Thatcher years in the 1980s with anti-union laws and today perpetuated with the same venom and spite that is their political birthmark.
People are getting wise to this government. It is starting to dawn on people that this government only cares about the interest of big finance, capital and big industrial monopolies who are equally opposed to the influence of trade unions and they are prepared to work in harmony with this government to undermine trade unions.
It has become blatantly obvious that this government is set on a course to depress the aspirations of working people and their families. Pay less, have worsened pay and conditions and crucially without any recourse to challenge them or take industrial action when agreements can be secured.
The tide is turning! It’s all to easy to identify the winners and losers in this abhorrent game this government have set for themselves and to them it is a game. Never mind the hardship, the suffering, the indignity and shame. They simply plough on through with decisions that feed their greed while fuelling the misery of those struggling to exist, feed, clothe and keep their families warm.
The current energy crisis exemplifies these challenging times forced upon families, reliant on food banks because the reality is that food for them is now more of a luxury than a necessity, while these same big multinational energy companies make obscene profits.
Consider the figures in 2022:
- British Gas: profits of £1.3 Billion and growing.
- BP: £6.95 Billion and growing
- Shell: £9.4 Billion and growing
This obscenity while today families and more directly children, going without breakfast because their parents simply cannot afford to buy basic necessities.
Things have to change and they are. Trade unions are witnessing a surge in membership with workers recognising that collective action can result in better pay and conditions and safer working environments. We need to build on that interest from workers across all sectors and be seen to push back against the misery forced on millions by rising bills, low wages, food poverty in a society run only for the wealthy elite.
This government cannot be trusted and we cannot rely on them any longer to manage the economy, they are beyond reproach – totally inept. It is now time for workers to get organised in every workplace, in every community and kick-back with the very clear message that we will no longer accept anything less than a fair deal from the wealth we create through hard work, respect, honesty and commitment. We deserve better, demands have been made clear and we are prepared to fight for that same level of decency we afford our employers. Enough is enough!
It's happening already with collective action showing collective strength and solidarity. Let’s build on that strength by looking forward and not back. We are winning this struggle but we need to be as ruthless as this government is, in its contempt of working people and more directly trade unions. We can change things, for ourselves our families and our communities if we stand up and stand strong.
Let’s take a closer look at the current industrial action. Nurses for the first time in their history are standing up against this hypocritical government who shamelessly exploited them during the pandemic only to slap them down when they had the temerity to ask for pay that reflects, their professionalism, loyalty and commitment to the job they love doing. What an insult!
This industrial action which the nurses are taking and ambulance workers is not just about pay. They are fighting for the very survival of the NHS. They understand that without the collective action to make the service attractive to new staff and be able to retain the staff who are there, things will not change for the better. Without nurses and our ambulance crews the NHS will wither and die.
These disputes, along with our sisters and brothers in RMT, ASLEF, workers in education, postal workers and all other unions demanding better terms and conditions for their workers highlights the fundamental case for taking industrial action that has been forced on them by employers and goaded on by a government determined to crush workers into submission. It won’t happen, it never has, we are still here and we are getting stronger.
We are fighting for a future and in doing so we have to take responsibility for determining and planning that future. Inflation is rampant, services are crumbling, food banks have become a growth industry, this the cruel obscenity of this government and it’s deliberate!
There is real morale in fighting for a future and our greatest hope is that workers are starting to understand that they can no longer sit on the side-lines and not least of all in their own industries and workplaces. They are taking charge – they are not alone!
We can and must challenge this corrupt government relentlessly pursing an economic model that is destroying the country and the planet. We are often asked; well what are your answers, solutions to the problems, what model do you offer the people. It’s a fair question and it’s easy to answer.
We want a government that delivers on not just basic living standard but on standards that reflect fairly on our labour, our productivity and commitment to a fairer society:
- Affordable energy
- Clean air and water, real nutritious food and a desirable environment for our families to live in.
- Good quality, affordable housing
- A dynamic education service, from pre-school, primary right through to higher education which enables children to discover all aspects of their potential and aspirations
- Higher, better responsive public services which addresses the causes of problems, not symptoms
- Support for the most vulnerable in our communities.
This is not an exhaustive list, more a platform of honest and decent demands that any fair society should aspire to. This government isn’t listening, it doesn’t care, we deserve better. Our unions will fight for a better future. We will not ignore what our members are telling us. We will stand together with our sisters and brothers wherever they gather. Not to chase dreams but to secure aspirations, expectations and ambitions in a society that acts as vehicle for decency and fairness.
GMB Northants Community Branch
6th January 2023