Take to the streets in solidarity with the strikers

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This Saturday is shaping up to be a big day of resistance, with 175,000 workers set to strike across the country. The strikes come in response to the Tories’ declaration of intensified class war in their mini-budget last week, which included plans to break unions and push for wage cuts.

Marches and rallies are planned in around 30 cities and towns, there will be plenty of opportunities for solidarity on the picket lines.  

Patrick Harrington, the general secretary of Solidarity union said: “In response to the Tories’ declaration of intensified war on ordinary workers in their mini-budget last week and the below inflation pay offers (pay cuts), 175,000 workers across the country are set to strike this Saturday. With marches and rallies planned in around 30 cities and towns, this could be one of the biggest showings of the power of ordinary workers strength in recent years. I urge every decent person to stand with the strikers by attending the demonstrations and picket lines.”

If we want to win, we need more strikes, escalating strikes, and united strikes that fight to win. This is just the beginning – let’s make it a day to remember! Only then can we hope to put an end to this declaration of war on workers. Saturday promises to be a big day – let’s make it a step forward in the fight for our collective future.

It’s time to take to the streets.

On October 1st, get out to the following locations to support the strikes and the five demands of Enough is Enough.

Protests:

LONDON

12pm, Kings Cross station, N1 9AL

MANCHESTER

12pm, Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RN

LIVERPOOL

12pm, St. George’s Plateau, L1 1JJ

LEEDS

10am, Leeds Train Station, LS1 4DY

GLASGOW

12pm, buchanan street steps, G1 2NG

BIRMINGHAM

12pm, Birmingham New Street Station, B2 4QA

BRISTOL

12pm, Square in front of Knights Templar, BS1 6DG

CARDIFF

11am, Cardiff Central Library, CF10 1FL

NORWICH

11am, King Street near Last Pub Standing, nr1 1pd

NOTTINGHAM

11am, Nottingham train station, NG2 3AQ

NEWCASTLE

12pm, Grey’s Monument, NE1 7AN

HULL

12pm, Queens Garden, HU1 3FA

PORTSMOUTH

10am, Guildhall square, PO1 9ST

PLYMOUTH

12pm, Plymouth Guildhall, PL1 2BJ

SOUTHEND

10.30am, Royal Mail, Short street, SS1 1AA

HASTINGS

11am, HASTINGS STATION, TN34 1BA

ELLESMERE PORT

12pm, Stanney Grange Community Centre, CH65 9HE

HUDDERSFIELD

1pm, St. George’s Square,  HD1 1LA

LANCASTER

11am, Royal Mail, Fenton Street, LA1 1AA

BATH

12.30pm, The Orange Grove, BA1 1EE

SHEFFIELD

11.30am, Devonshire Green, S1 4GT

COLCHESTER

2pm, War Memorial, ME7 1HL

DARLINGTON

1pm, high row opposite post house wynd, DL3 7LP

PRESTON

12pm, Flag Market, PR1 2AP

DUNDEE

12pm, 110 Blackness Road, DD1 5PB

ABERDEEN

11am, Marischal college, AB10 1AB

STOKE-ON-TRENT

10am, Network Rail Depot, Stoke Road,  ST4 2QH

WALSALL

12pm, Royal Mail, Hatherton Street, WS1 1AA

CANTERBURY

1pm, Canterbury Baptist Church, CT1 1UT

LUTON

12pm, Town Hall, George Street Luton LU1 2BQ

BLACKPOOL (FRIDAY SEPT 30)

7PM, Bootleg Social, 30 Topping St, FY1 3AQ

BRIGHTON

11am, Brighton Train Station, BN1 3XP

HARLOW

11AM, The Obelisk, Broad Walk, CM20 1HA

WEYMOUTH

11am, King’s Statue, DT4 7AN

EASTBOURNE

12pm, Eastbourne Library, BN21 4TL

CHESTERFIELD

11am, Shentall Gardens, S40 1LW

EDINBURGH

10.30AM, Waverley Bridge, EH1 1BQ

More cities and towns to come. Non-listed locations by Friday are asked to assemble at their local picket line at 12pm.

Two TV programmes for Trade Unionists next week

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Crisis, What Crisis? Will Truss face the same fate as Callaghan?

Next week, Channel 5 will be airing two programmes that are of interest to Trade Unionists. The first, 1978: Winter of Discontent, tells the story of the seven months of strikes by British workers that led to the downfall of then – prime minister James Callaghan. Featuring interviews with key players on both sides of the dispute, the programme provides a fascinating insight into one of the most momentous periods in British industrial history. With the worst weather for a decade, 13 million days were lost to strikes, with thousands of schools closed, hospitals only admitting emergency patients and the dead remaining unburied. The second, Britain On Strike: The Debate, is a live discussion featuring a panel of experts discussing the reasons for and the impact of the recent wave of strikes on British society. Are the strikes justified? Are they the best way to bring about change? Who is to blame for the disruption?

Sunday 2 October is 1978: Winter of Discontent (Channel 5 at 9pm) and on Monday 3 October Britain On Strike: The Debate (Channel 5 at 9pm). Thanks to our friends over at Counter Culture for the heads-up.

Picture credit: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The bankers budget: the devil in the detail

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Kwarteng, the Tory chancellor, signalled £45 billions of tax cuts, overwhelmingly for the very rich.

The cap on bankers’ bonuses will go—and the fattest of fat cats will again be cheering their puppet in Number 11 Downing Street.

Rupert Lee-Browne, chief executive of foreign exchange group Caxton, said that “with enticing tax cuts, removal of bonus caps, regulatory reform and huge spending plans, these measures will put a big smile on the face of the City”.

Kwarteng confirmed that corporation tax—paid by the top 10 percent of businesses—would not rise from 19p in the pound to 25p, as promised by his predecessor Rishi Sunak. It could have raised £17 billion a year from businesses to repair public finances.

From next April the present 45 percent top rate of tax—which applies to those grabbing over £150,000 a year—will be scrapped. So, the top rate will be 40 percent. This means mega earners pay the same rate as those on £50,000. This is a generous present to roughly the richest 1 percent at a time of national hardship.

The chancellor said he would also cut the basic rate of income tax by 1p in the pound to 19 percent in April 2023. That’s a year earlier than the government had previously promised and again it’s the rich who will gain most.

It will do nothing for 21 million adults surviving on less than £21,570 a year. But it’s a boon for business. The move will reduce tax for 920,000 businesses by nearly £10,000 on average next year.

Kwarteng said the government’s recent increase in national insurance contributions will be cancelled. The more you grab, the more you benefit from this. Someone earning £20,000 will get an additional £1.79 a week while a person on £100,000 will collect an extra £21 a week.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation showed that half of the gains from personal tax cuts will go to the richest 5 percent. They will on average be £8,560 a year better off. In contrast, just 12 percent will go to the poorest half of households.

Meanwhile, 120,000 people on Universal Credit who earn less than the equivalent of 15 hours a week at National Living Wage rates will be forced to meet regularly with a “Work Coach”. And they’ll have to take active steps to increase their earnings.

If they don’t, the authorities will slash their meagre benefits. It’s an attempt to force them into low paid jobs.

As expected, there will be a cap on energy bills. But, at an average of £2,500 a year, it’s still double what people were paying a year ago.

Analysis from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition suggests that just under a quarter of all households will still fall into fuel poverty this year, even with this new energy price freeze and previously announced measures.

A budget for the bankers

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The government is picking a fight with unions and workers after it revealed a “bankers’ budget” last week that aims to further restrict the right to strike and does little for ordinary people but much for the super-rich.

Trade union leaders have called the government’s mini-Budget a “Robin Hood in reverse” that hands a giveaway to the super-rich while holding down workers’ pay.

Following the budget, TSSA and Unite announced fresh strikes in the ongoing rail disputes over jobs, pay and conditions.

All the major rail unions are now taking strike action on October 1.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The government should be working towards a negotiated settlement in the national rail dispute, not seeking to make it even harder to take effective strike action.

“RMT and other unions will not sit idly by or meekly accept any further obstacles on their members exercising the basic human right to withdraw their labour.”

And TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said that the new rules will only elongate disputes and do nothing to encourage employers to negotiate realistic offers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady labelled the Budget “Robin Hood in reverse,” slamming Prime Minister Liz Truss for holding down wages and lining the pockets of big corporations and City bankers.

“We should be rewarding work, not wealth. The party of pay cuts strikes again.”

Ms O’Grady said a “very different plan” was needed in the full autumn Budget, including the boosting of the minimum wage, universal credit and pensions.

She added: “Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly, but the right to strike to defend pay and conditions is a fundamental British freedom.

“And it’s the last line of defence against employers who refuse to negotiate fair pay.

“These new restrictions are unworkable, very likely illegal and designed to hold down pay across the economy.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said that billionaires and City bankers will “once again be considering which tax haven they will stash their money in, while millions of ordinary families continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

Solidarity general secretary Patrick Harrington said: “This budget does very little to help ordinary working people but a lot for the richest in our society. It’s an insult to all those struggling to make ends meet. The attacks on unions seeking to maintain their members living standards must meet mounting resistance both in workplaces and on the streets.”

GMB general secretary Gary Smith said the announcement had “set in stone an economy that’s rigged against the working people.

“Our members want an economic policy that works for all, not just the spivs and speculators who have done very well out of a Tory government,” he said.

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen urged members to back strike action as she struck out at the package that gives “billions to bankers and nothing to nurses.”

Resolution Foundation chief executive Torsten Bell said those earning £1 million annually will get a £55,000 tax cut next year.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it shows the government has “no understanding of the economic reality facing millions across the UK.

Chief economist Rebecca McDonald said: “This is a Budget that has wilfully ignored families struggling through a cost-of-living emergency and instead targeted its action at the richest.

United protests and actions on October 1

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Saturday 1 October is set to be a major day of united strikes by over 170,000 workers. Rail workers, workers at Royal Mail and dock workers at Felixstowe will all strike. The media has dubbed the day of action a ‘perfect storm’.

On Friday the RMT emailed its 40,000 members on Network Rail and 14 train operating companies about a new strike date of 1 October. General secretary Mick Lynch added: “Due to the period of national mourning, the RMT will be making no press or public statements regarding the action.” The union may announce another day, probably 5 October, later.

The Aslef union, although it has also made no public statement, is also calling for more strikes by around 9,000 drivers at 12 companies. The managing director of rail operator LNER, David Horne, tweeted that the union had notified it of strikes on 1 October and 5 October.

The TSSA rail union has also called strikes for 1 October.

Over 115,000 Royal Mail workers in the CWU union were already set to strike on 1 October. And there are also scheduled strikes by more than 560 dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool, and 1,900 workers at the port of Felixstowe that cover that day. Together they move 60 percent of Britain’s container traffic.

The Liverpool strike is from Monday until 3 October and the Felixstowe one is from 27 September to 5 October. Unity is a big step forward. Pressure from below has helped to push the union leaders to call strikes on the same day.

On 1 October the Enough is Enough campaign needs to mobilise the 600,000 people who have signed up to its campaign. It calls for real pay rises, taxing the rich, an end to food poverty, decent homes for all and slashed energy bills.

It has now announced protests for 1 October in 13 cities — London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Norwich and Bristol. These can unite the picket lines and wider groups. Everyone should build them.

Don’t Pay UK have also called protests on the day.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented:

The value of wages, having been stagnant for 12 years, is now falling. Offers of wage increases which are less than the rate of inflation is, in effect, wage cuts. That’s the stark reality for workers and that’s the main reason for strikes and protests. You can’t take money from people’s pockets without them getting angry.

“The other factor is that after a decade of austerity, people have had enough. They’ve seen public services privatised and being run for profit, not for need or the public good . That’s why the Labour Party’s pledge under Corbyn to renationalise the railways and water companies, as well as bring energy back into public ownership, was so popular.”

It’s good to see unions striking on the same day and that protests are being organised by Enough is Enough. If workers are to protect their living standards, then this action must spread and escalate. Workers must not be made to pay for bad government decisions and policy.  We need to see more days of action, and co-ordinated action, until we get a decent pay rise for all.”

Harrington continued:

“There is a lot of anger out there. And it needs to be harnessed in a constructive way so that workers get the pay rise that they deserve. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to get involved in the protests on 1 October, and to support the strikers.”

Truss plans a bonfire of workers’ rights

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Liz Truss is planning a bonfire of workers’ rights in response to the fight back against wage cuts.

She wants to make it impossible for trade unions to defend the rights of their members, negotiate better pay and improve working conditions.

This is a direct attack on our right to stand up for ourselves at work, and it will make it harder for us to get the pay and conditions we deserve.

We need to fight back against these plans, and defend our rights to fair pay and decent working conditions.

Truss is considering:

  • Increasing the current threshold percentage ballot turnout (in addition to a majority vote in favour). This measure is aimed at making it even more difficult to obtain a yes vote for a strike.
  • Giving powers to a minister to outlaw any industrial action deemed to pose a “national emergency.” This measure could be interpreted widely to prevent many workers striking at all.
  • Raising the threshold percentage of votes in favour of strikes needed to call one under the 2016 Act in “important public services” (i.e., the “key workers” who the government clapped and praised during lockdown).
  • Raising notice of industrial action from four weeks’ (instead of two). This would make it easier for employers to plan ahead (for example to arrange scab labour) and make it difficult for workers to take impromptu and effective action.
  • Limiting the time period that a ballot authorising industrial action will be valid for only one occurrence of strike action within the current permitted six-month period. A measure at breaking the momentum of strikes and limiting the flexibility unions have in picking dates for action.
  • Reducing the six-months a ballot for strike action is valid to three. Introducing a mandatory cooling off period of 60 days and a “dispute resolution process” after each strike action. This is aimed at breaking the momentum of strike action .
  • Limiting the number of pickets permitted in the vicinity of “critical national infrastructure.” This measure is another aimed at reducing the effect of pickets and could be interpreted very widely to limit freedom of assembly.
  • Prohibiting ‘Inflammatory and intimidatory’ language on picket lines. This is aimed at preventing calling strikebreakers “scabs” presumably but might be widened to limit all kinds of free expression.
  • Forcing unions to to put comments from the Bosses on ballot papers for a strike. This is aimed at undermining votes in favour of strike action by allowing Bosses to put bribes and threats on the ballot paper.
  • Taxing any strike pay by unions to their members. This is aimed at reducing strike pay from unions to further place financial strain on strikers and force them back to work.
  • Entitling employers to by-pass collective (where it exists) by making offers directly to union members. This would enable bosses to try to split support for strike action by offering bribes either to the workforce as a whole or to sections of it.

Holiday pay may also be under attack according to leaks. Statutory holiday pay could be removed altogether, or the number of days cut, or the amount payable reduced.

Or employers could be allowed to roll up holiday pay with ordinary pay so that the employer can say “we won’t pay you during holidays because we’ve already priced your holiday into your wages, and it’s up to you to make the necessary savings each week.”

No wonder that unions and workers are preparing for a fight. The UK already has some of the most restrictive laws in the world that unions have to work under. Now, Truss wants to make it even more difficult for them to function. Faced with attacks workers must mobilise to defend their livelihoods and rights. Solidarity union, along with others, has called for co-ordinated strike action and protests. The time to act is now.

Defend Workers’ Rights

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Liz Truss has been urged to “come clean” over her plans to attack workers’ rights.

Earlier this week, The Times reported that Truss was considering a review of workers’ protections.

Among the protections to be reviewed by the Truss will be the laws covering the 48-hour working week, adopted as part of the EU working time directive. The strike ballot support threshold may also be raised to 50% of all eligible voters and the strike notice may be extended from two to four weeks.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said Ms. Truss should “come clean” about any such plans.

“Liz Truss’s number one priority should be to help families pay their bills this winter,” Ms. O’Grady said.

“Threatening hard-won workers’ rights is the last thing the country and working people need.”

Petros Elia, general secretary for United Voices of the World, said:

“These measures are designed to try to shut us up and shut us down. But we won’t be intimidated. Britain already has the most stringent anti-union laws in Europe and here workers’ rights are regularly violated according to The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global ranking. We will resist and defeat these attempts to shackle us and turn this country into a worker’s gulag. We urge every single worker out there who is not yet unionised to join us so we can fight as one and win.”

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented:

Unions exist to defend the rights of workers. Attacks on these rights will be defeated by the union movement and our small union will play its part.”

Unions cancel strikes as a mark of respect to the late Queen

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Postal and rail strikes were canceled in an announcement last Thursday after the death of the Queen.

Planned strikes by Royal Mail workers on Friday were called off following the Queen’s death. Members of the Communication Workers Union were due to continue a 48-hour walkout in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Rail strikes that were being prepared for September have been canceled. Train drivers union Aslef had set a strike date for Thursday, September 15. The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) had planned a walkout on Monday, September 26.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has postponed its annual conference that was due to be held in Brighton from Sunday for four days.

The cancellation of the rail and postal strikes can only be a temporary mark of respect. The issues which underly them remain unresolved. The unions would have faced much criticism if they had continued with their plans. The leaders of the unions involved have made a difficult but likely wise decision. The Morning Star was right to point out, however: 

“Nobody will say that the Queen’s death means company bosses should drop their vicious attacks on workers’ rights as a gesture of respect.

Newspaper pundits won’t ask how the Tories have the effrontery to wage class war at such a time.

That’s never the narrative: it is workers who cause disruption by fighting back when attacked, never bosses who cause it by picking our pockets.

That this is exactly what bosses are doing has been demonstrated in detail in reports like Unite Investigates’ Corporate Profiteering and the Cost-of-Living Crisis.”

Bakers’ union BFAWU general secretary Sarah Woolley said: “The decision to postpone TUC Congress is completely understandable after the news of the Queen dying on Thursday.

“[But] the cost-of-living crisis, though, hasn’t and will not go away — and we have a lot of work to do over the coming months as a movement to support working people through it.

“When the TUC does meet, we will have a clearer idea of the political landscape with [Liz] Truss as Prime Minister and this will inform our strategy.”

Support the rail strikes: here’s how

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Several rail trade unions are planning walkouts in protest at unfair below-inflation pay offers (effectively pay cuts).

The strikes will involve members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, as well as the Aslef and TSSA unions.

Alef says members will walk out at 12 train operating firms on Thursday, September 15 and the RMT is also striking that day. Affected operators will be Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, and Great Western Others will be Hull, LNER, London Overground, Northern, Southeastern, TransPennine, and West Midlands.

RMT is also striking on Saturday, 17 September 2022.

TSSA members at nine train operators and Network Rail will walk out from midday on Monday, September 26. Avanti West Coast, c2c, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, and Great Western Railway will all be affected. Also hit by the TSSA action will be LNER, Southeastern, TransPennine Express, and West Midlands Trains

This marks the fourth month of action on the railways. There is little sign of an agreement being reached anytime soon. It comes at a time when unions across many sectors are stepping up to defend their member’s pay and conditions. Some union leaders have called for coordinated strikes alongside union and community-led campaigning. Solidarity is among the unions that supported those calls.

We need to defend our jobs, pay, conditions, and pensions from the government’s attacks. This is an important battle that we need to win if we want to protect our living standards.

This fight is important because it can help us find a better way to live. This will involve having less money going to the people who have a lot of money, and more money going to the people who have less money. You can show your support by:

Donating to the RMT’s national strike fund. This can be done by individuals, groups, or organisations. https://www.rmt.org.uk/about/national-dispute-fund/

Attending picketing of major stations. It’s important that different striking groups get to know each other and for pickets to be well attended and peaceful.

Reading about the facts of the strike from the RMT, Solidarity, and other unions and sharing their information – there’s a lot of deliberate confusion being sown by the government and many media outlets.

It goes without saying but never cross a picket line!

Postal workers shut down the Royal Mail

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Royal Mail workers shutting down nearly the whole of the postal service on Friday delivered a resounding message to their bosses: we’re not going to take your meagre pay increase lying down.

The strike, the first national one in 12 years, comes after postal workers were offered a below-inflation pay rise of just 2 percent. In other words, their real-term pay would be cut if they accepted the offer. Meanwhile, top executives have been raking in profits and awarding themselves big bonuses.

Clearly, the workers have had enough and are determined to get a fairer share of the company’s success.

The strike sends a clear message from postal workers: we’re not going to be taken for granted any longer. We deserve a fair share of the company’s profits.

Addressing a large crowd of striking workers and campaigners outside Royal Mail offices in Farringdon, central London, CWU general secretary Dave Ward warned greedy bosses at the privatised company that workers would not give in easily.

To loud cheers and the tooting horns of passing buses, he said: “When we say we’re in this for the long haul, you better believe we bloody well mean it.”

Around 115,000 workers at the firm are also set to walk out on Wednesday and on September 8-9, after the union said management imposed a 2 percent pay rise without consultation.

Royal Mail insisted the offer actually amounts to 5.5 percent, about half the lowest rate of inflation in July, but CWU categorically rejected this claim as a lie.

The union’s members at the Post Office, who first walked out in May, are also striking after the state-run company imposed a pay freeze in 2021-22 and offered 5 percent plus a £500 lump-sum for this financial year.

About 3,500 workers are involved in that dispute.

Mr. Ward called for solidarity with workers nationwide, as rail staff, dockers, criminal barristers, and exam board employees also take industrial action.

He said: “Solidarity has never been more important, solidarity with your colleagues and other unions is the way we’re going to win.

“Solidarity with workers who are not in unions, who are getting shafted up and down the UK. At CWU, we say every worker counts.

“We’ll win our disputes, but we’ve got to do more. I think it’s time that we push the boundaries further than they’ve ever been pushed.

“I think it’s time we saw collective action led by trade unions, led by community organisations and we get the whole of the working class in the UK together to fight back.”

Rail union RMT’s head Mick Lynch also addressed the lively demo, which included campaigners from the National Education Union, the University and College Union, Unison, and Equity.

Mr. Lynch, whose union has held six national strike days this summer, said: “The billionaires and the big corporations are telling working people to cough up for the problems in this society and become poorer.

“Our message to them is simple, enough is enough.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union said:

This is an inspiring show of strength by postal workers. They are up against one of the most powerful companies in the country. Postal workers have been humiliated and treated with contempt by their bosses. But they are now fighting back. Their action has caused massive disruption to postal services across Britain. It has also sent a message of hope to low-paid workers who are facing similar attacks on their pay. The postal workers’ strike is an important battle in the wider war against austerity and for decent pay for all.