On Sunday tens of thousands of protesters from all over the country descended upon Manchester to unite under the slogan “No to austerity, yes to workers’ rights”. With the Tory Party Conference now in full swing, workers sacrificed their day of rest to demonstrate their anger at five years of violent austerity.
More devastating cuts loom on the horizon, with promises from the Tories (the Party of the 24%) of the disposal of public sector jobs, privatisation of public services, continued pay freezes, and a sickening message to hardworking people that they must work harder and longer. Not of course forgetting our government’s plans to sell off social housing, and cut tax credits and disability benefits.
Speaking in the run-up to Sunday’s inspiring display of working-class solidarity, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) told a fringe meeting of the Trades Union Congress that he believed the government has launched a ‘class war’ against ordinary working people. In reference to the anti-democratic Trades Union Bill, he explained:
“It amounts to nothing less than class war against ordinary working people. Trades Unions are the first line of defence against attacks on workers’ rights, the rights of ordinary working people to campaign and fight for decent pay and conditions. We as trades unionists need to take these threats to our rights very seriously indeed.”
Wrack called upon union leaders to mobilise their members to take to the streets in protest against the government’s ongoing attacks on our democratic freedoms. Thus the protest on Sunday should be seen as the first step towards a renewed fight-back against the Tories.
Fighting cuts to local services will no doubt be a vital battleground in the coming months. Local authorities have already faced a 37% funding cut over the last five years. Now in Leicestershire we are being told we must axe even more, which must even include a third of our fire-fighters!
Chairman of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), Dave Nellist –who is speaking in Leicester on Monday night — drew attention to the key role that TUSC activists and trade unionists have played in opposing the lies surrounding the necessity of making such cuts. He said:
“In the last couple of years we have worked with councillors in Southampton, Hull and Leicester to present legally-compliant no-cuts budgets to their councils. Based on the use of reserves and borrowing powers, those budgets were designed to buy time for councils to organise a broad public campaign for the restoration of their funding.”
With the rising influence of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour movement, I can only hope that many more Labour councillors will feel emboldened enough to stand firm against austerity. If linked up, such a revolt could spearhead a national fightback.
But if Labour councillors insist on carrying through cuts, then rest-assured that TUSC candidates will standing against them in forthcoming local elections to pose a working-class alternative to cuts.
This letter was sent to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 4th October.