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Support RMT with strike action

RMT protest
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For a massive 18 June to build further action

RMT calls on unions to take national strikes

Demand TUC call a conference to plan national coordinate strike action

Demand a sliding scale of wages, benefits and pensions linked to inflation and price controls to end  profiteering.

Inflation is soaring every month and is 8% at the time of writing. The sharpest price rises are energy bills, petrol prices, electricity and food (some food items have risen 15% in May and many cheaper ‘value brands’ are no longer available). Housing and travel costs also remain a huge problem. Today inflation is hitting all workers, but it is hitting poor workers and vulnerable people the most as they pay a higher percentage of their earnings, for energy – inflation for them is running at 14%.

This out of control crisis comes after eleven years of austerity and two years of COVID, which has widened the gap between the rich and poor. The wealthiest 10% of households owned 43% of all the wealth between April 2018 to March 2020 (Office for National Statistics). In contrast, the bottom half of the population ‘own’ just 9%.1

The British economy is heading towards a recession and inflation has reach 10%. Prices are likely to rise at their fastest rate in more than 40 years.

The government’s answer to this crisis has been to inject £15bn into the economy, raised by a ‘Windfall tax’ on oil companies, much of which will find its way back into the coffers of the energy companies.

This is to raise the cash for a one-off £650 payment for eight million families on means-tested benefits, alongside an extra £200 for all energy bill payers that will not have to be repaid. There will be a £300 payment for pensioners, £150 for recipients of disability benefits and a £150 council tax rebate.

This plan does not address the real issue of profiteering by energy and other companies, nor the way workers suffer more than the rich. It is designed to buy an embattled government some breathing space. Many workers can see through these lies and have been driven to take industrial action.

The Resolution Foundation has said that the current fall in real wages was not projected to end until late 2023, and at that point, average wages would be no higher than in 2007.

Benefits must also rise with inflation. “Welfare policy was driven by austerity, which was so drastic that an estimated £37bn was cut from benefits spending between 2010 and 2021.”2

How the poorest are suffering (most of whom are working), food banks have increased emergency food parcels by 33% from the previous year, with 2.5 million emergency food parcels distributed to people in crisis between 1 April and 31 March 2021. London has seen a 106% increase in food parcels distributed since last year.

So, the rich world centre of capitalist imperialism is the only region in the UK where the number of parcels distributed has more than doubled in the last year.

A wide strike movement

For months now, many strikes have been taking place; as we reported in the last issue of Socialist Voice: strikes in 2022 are the highest in five years.

In May and June, strikes are taking place or due to take place against the cost of living, worsening work conditions, unequal pay, job losses and workloads. They include:

•   In Scotland, North Sea oil rig workers organised a wildcat strike on more than a dozen platforms at the end of May. On 19 rigs, staff downed tools in demanding a £7 an hour pay rise to keep up with inflation.

•   The RMT, in a ballot of 40,000 rail workers, voted for national strike action with a turnout of 71%, with 89% voting for strike action, including Network Rail and 13 train operators. This is the most significant endorsement of industrial action since privatisation in the 1990s.

•   In May, the PCS (civil service union) national conference backed plans to ballot workers nationally on pay and to fight the government’s plan to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, including possible strike action.

•   Unite union workers at the Fawley Oil Refinery said 100 workers will continue with the strike action on June 9, 10,16, 17 and 20 in a fight over pay and sick benefit following their employer, Exxon, posting a £6.25 billion profit in 2021.

•   Refuse, recycling and street cleansing workers at Rugby BC went on strike and on 26 April, they won a 12% pay increase.

•   Unite workers at Crumlin-based Langford Lodge began the first week of strike action for a pay increase on 26 May. The strike is an escalation of an overtime ban at the RLC Engineering-owned, precision engineering aerospace manufacturer. Women, there are paid £1.93 per hour less than their male colleagues

•   Workers at pallet suppliers Chep UK at Trafford Park, Manchester, who had been on strike for 21 weeks, claimed victory after accepting an increased pay offer of 9%.

•   20 UCU university union branches escalated their four fights and USS pensions dispute to a boycott of marking and assessment (some are having 100% wage deductions). All college unions – UCU, NEU, Unison, Unite, and GMB – have rejected the latest national offer of a 2.5% pay rise and are balloting for strike action and demanding a 10% rise.

Mick Lynch, the RMT leader, said that he hopes workers in many industries will follow rail staff in backing nationwide strikes. We hope Mick Lynch will call on the TUC for an emergency conference to plan a coordinated industrial and political action campaign for wages, pensions, and benefits to rise with inflation.

And the rank and file trade union movement should also demand an emergency conference of the TUC to build a national struggle and strike action against the cost of living increases and attacks on wages, benefits, pensions, conditions and jobs. The RMT strike can have great strength and even greater strength alongside other sectors. That is why we support demands for the TUC to call such a conference as the central fight in our unions and communities.

Act against victimisation

It is outrageous that a union rep was suspended by Altrad Services after 50 of his workmates – who are not part of the dispute – refused to cross a picket line during their Fawley April strikes. Victimisation of union reps is a continuing feature in many disputes.

In building national strike action, workers who are not on strike but work in the same location may refuse to cross pickets – just like the Liverpool dock workers always said, “Never cross a picket line.” All unions and the TUC must support workers’ actions and defend them. We must continue to fight for the reinstatement of all workers who have taken such actions and were subsequently victimised by employers.

Wages must rise with inflation

There is a policy of wages rising with inflation each month in Belgium. Together with Luxembourg, Belgium is the only EU country that mandates an automatic adjustment of all wages. It is the product of past workers’ battles, and British unions should fight for a rising scale of wages linked to inflation as in Belgium.

Workers’ party

The Labour Party is incapable of leading the fight against inflation and all the horrors of British capitalism and imperialism. In past decades, the mass of the population has suffered because of the attacks on health, education, youth, and the democratic legal rights of workers and their trade unions. Millions of people have had bitter experiences of what the “free market” and unrestricted licence for capitalist values means at a time when those who rule capitalist society grow more and more wealthy at the top.

The rise of a desire for drastic change is shown by the number of strikes and protests in Britain with an accelerating hostility towards the Tory government. It is hated by the youth, wide sections of the working class, many oppressed nationalities and large numbers of the middle class. There is bitterness over health and education cuts and the ill treatment of the sick and disabled people. There is increasing cynicism, particularly among the youth, about prospects in a capitalist society and its institutions.

Days without food, poverty amongst many employed workers, including the NHS – the soaring price rises are destroying families and lives.

Keir Starmer and his followers completely embrace the capitalist ideology on which the Tory government is based. A Labour government would steadfastly continue to carry out capitalist measures to assist capitalism at the expense of the mass of the population and the poorest.

A workers’ party should stand for a workers’ government with a policy of common ownership and workers’ control. It must be for the defence of Black, Asian and multi-ethnic communities, immigrants and asylum seekers. A workers’ party would be for the immediate nationalisation of railways, water, gas and electricity with a policy of taxing the rich and helping disabled people and the poor, with priority for a health service run by committees based on representatives of GPs, hospital staff, unions and communities. A workers’ party would stand for the restoration of student grants, real training for the youth at work with a living wage, paid for by employers and a policy against unemployment, with public works on full wages and an education policy drawn up by parents, teachers and communities.

A workers’ party must fight to control prices with workers’ committees of unions and communities, as energy and supermarket multi-nationals are using inflation to profiteer. This means establishing the right to inspect companies’ books by workers’ committees and control over prices.

So, we support the call for a new workers’ party where a programme can be built for mass struggle on the streets to address all the problems created by the soaring living costs and all the attacks against the working class by a capitalist system.

Build the International Socialist League

We call for building a new workers’ party to help build unity in the struggle. This is not enough though. We need a revolutionary party that is completely class independent, internationalist and Marxist. Through the work of our international the IWL and the ISL we help build many connections with the world class struggle. We fight, for example, to support the Ukrainian trade unions and the international rank and file workers’ struggle through the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggle.

We cannot only build a national class struggle against the government policies. All the most important hardships facing the working class in Britain are international.

We support all the class struggles and the struggle of oppressed people today in the UK, but the only answer for the future of our class, the youth, all of humanity and the planet is socialism. We mean revolutionary socialism, the necessity for a workers’ government, workers’ control, and the socialist revolution.

This fight becomes ever more urgent as the acceleration of decay of the order of world imperialism means the rights of workers and people come under deeper attack with the acceleration of war, inflation, poverty, health crises and the destruction of the environment.

So, we need a workers’ party to unite workers across all boundaries and we need to build the ISL to fight for a workers’ party and the socialist revolution in Britain, Ireland and across the globe.

We call on the rank and file to fight for:

•  Strike action to fight inflation

•  Price controls to end  profiteering by energy, food and other multinationals

•  Unions demand TUC call a national conference of all unions to plan coordinated national strike action

•  A sliding scale of wages with inflation, monthly including benefits and pensions

•  The Nationalisation all of the energy and big monopolies including oil take all public services, like rail, under workers’ control

1 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jun/01/the-decade-that-broke-britain-the-disastrous-decisions-that-left-millions-in-a-cost-of-living-crisis

2 https://www.sustainweb.org/news/apr21-food-bank-use-high/

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