Yesterday hundreds of thousands of workers took strike action, some of whom, like train and bus drivers, have been fighting for a pay rise for over 6 months. But the government and bosses have closed ranks. No rise in real wages is offered - not to any section of workers whatsoever!
Instead, a new anti-union law has been legislated, to enforce “minimum service levels during strikes” - when the NHS, transport and education are falling apart by ministers’ own admission! And they dare to call teachers’ strikes “immoral”!
Six months later, the deal in front of rail workers - 4%+5% on pay - amounts to a 12% real wage cut - conditional on them accepting vicious attacks on jobs and conditions, which their bosses say are “non-negotiable”!
Yes, all of this, when the whole of the working class is facing the worst cost-of-living-crisis since the 1970s. And government ministers and the bosses hiding behind them, are well aware of it.
Indeed, the BBC has been reporting on the severe, unrelenting levels of poverty around the country - especially in the North East. Its videos are like scenes from the Ken Loach movie “I, Daniel Blake”. Only it’s real life.
We hear how a disabled mother, who, while in hospital with pneumonia, had her benefits stopped because she didn’t turn up for a “fit-to-work” assessment. One week later, she killed herself in despair. Another mother, in work, who used to donate to the food bank, now depends on it and cannot afford to turn her heating on. She and her little boy are shown crouching in front of the food bank radiator to get warm. She doesn’t qualify for benefits because she isn’t able to work enough hours! What kind of a system is this?
Then we’re told this week, that due to food price inflation, grocery bills will go up by at least £800 this year “if households do not change their habits”! So “households” must “change their habits”, but super-wealthy supermarket bosses aren’t forced to change theirs, by lowering their food prices?!
Unhappy Brexit birthday!
In fact it’s these price hikes which are the real issue! And of course not one word is uttered by any government, or Bank of England official, about price controls - the simplest and most obvious way to control the price inflation which has beset the working population, led entirely by the greed of energy and supermarket giants, et al, for profits!
Nor do they try to “boost growth”, which the politicians all say is their priority, by putting more money into the pockets of the working class!
Never mind that part of the shrinkage in the economy is accounted for simply by the physical loss of workers and therefore their spending power - those who did not return after Brexit and those who left the workforce (or died, as so many did) due to Covid.
Instead of workers taking the “hit” however, that would mean that the millionaire Zahawis and their billionaire mates who acquire government contracts by the dozen, would have to be hit... And for sure, that’s out of their question!
On the 3rd anniversary of “taking back control”, the IMF says that Brexit Britain “is the only leading economy likely to slide into recession this year”, (worse than Russia...). The Daily Torygraph deputy editor writes: “The grim reality is that the country seems to be falling apart on almost every front... car production has fallen to its lowest since the 1950s”.
But never fear. Sunak and Hunt boast that “Britain has great opportunities” and with the Bank of England’s Andrew Bailey, they claim they will tackle inflation... by preventing wage rises!
In the meantime to appease public opinion, £1bn is handed to the NHS for 5,000 beds and 800 ambulances without the staff to “utilise” them. Commented the Torygraph: it is “hard to shake off a sense that the Government has yet to grasp the scale of this crisis”.
Proletarian lions to lead!
For once one can agree with a Tory. And that’s precisely why the union leaders’ lack of determination to escalate the fight-back and consciously co-ordinate strike action threatens to be a lost opportunity.
The working class faces a government which is called “weak” even by its own side. And the public doesn’t swallow the government’s and media’s (or Labour Party’s!) anti-strike propaganda. There is a chance, for once, that the balance of forces could thus be tipped in workers’ favour...
There’s that old saying, that workers on strike are “lions led by donkeys”. It seems that the donkeys are terrified that if they lead a united charge, they’ll be seen as the “class enemy”... by the... enemy class!
Which is why the control of the strikes would best be taken out of their hands, and into the hands of the strikers themselves. And by the way, it’s not just a co-ordinated general strike to win the current battle which is needed. The next round, to follow, has to be the fight for “system change”!