Why I am lobbying the TUC for a strike against austerity!

With over 350,000 public sector workers already sacked and over one million young people on the dole, it’s terrifying to think that the vast majority of the cuts are still to come – unless we fight them!

These cuts aren’t necessary. £120 billion of tax goes unpaid every year largely by big business and the rich. £750 billion is sitting in big business bank accounts as the fat cats see no profitable investment – it seems they’re waiting to be handed guaranteed income from the privatisation of services such as the NHS.

The Trades Union Congress is organising a national demonstration in London on 20 October. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is committed to making this demo even bigger than when 750,000 people demonstrated on 26 March 2011. But 20 October can’t be the end of the campaign, but a new beginning. The NSSN is lobbying the TUC’s autumn conference to demand that this march is followed by a 24-hour general strike.

Steve Hedley, RMT assistant general secretary-elect, and Linda Taaffe, NSSN, explain why they’re lobbying the TUC

 Steve Hedley, who was elected as the RMT transport union’s assistant general secretary at the end of July, explains why he is joining the NSSN lobby. “I’m lobbying as we want to ensure that there’s action from the TUC. We believe that a general strike, starting with the coordination of a 24-hour general strike, is the only way that we’re going to stop the cuts coming through. Apparently there’s only been about 30% of the cuts made so far so we’re still facing a massive onslaught.

It’s good that the TUC has organised a demonstration in October, but this alone is not going to stop the government. We can only do that by coordinated industrial action. It’s very important that the delegates at the TUC feel strong enough and feel supported to demand that of their leaders.

There are people in the trade union leadership who would see the 20 October march as a bit of a relief valve to get rid of all the pressure building up from workers who want action against cuts, let people walk up and down and then they’ve done their bit, but that’s not the case.

The demonstration needs to be an organising demonstration. We then need to have a series of local meetings after that demonstration and our unions, both nationally and locally, should set up strike committees and decide how we’re going to take this on because at the minute we’re not taking it on.

 The RMT is a small union but we’re a very active union and we punch above our weight, so we hope to be intricately involved.”

Linda Taaffe NSSN Officer
To fire the imagination of the million workers expected to march behind the TUC banner on a second monster demo on 20 October, a slogan has been conjured up by the TUC leaders – “A Future that Works”. .. Eh? What? Is that it? What happened to fighting demands: ‘No to Cuts’, ‘We want Jobs and Homes’, ‘Make the bankers pay’, and the like? Or could this be a clever play on words? A future that works surely can’t be capitalism. The bosses’ system is patently not working, certainly not for a million unemployed young people, the lost generation.

Could this slogan possibly hint at a socialist future? Are the TUC leaders really supporting a change from a system that is all about the lust for profits to a system based on planning for need? At the end of the day, who knows? I am not inspired by sophistry. I want a clear strategy. Myself, and all those who get to the demo, need to return to our workplaces with a clear idea of what we actually need to do to get “a future that works”. It won’t drop into our lap. The bosses will see to that. It’s not likely to happen even with the election of a Labour government. Labour’s policies are market-driven too. But workers – organised – could do it.
The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) calls for the TUC’s 20 October demo to be followed up by mass action – a 24-hour general strike for starters. This is the reason why I am going to the Brighton Trades Union Congress that starts on Sunday 9th September, to lobby the delegates, and the TUC leadership, to urge them to begin a serious discussion about ‘what next’ after the demo.
I passionately want a future that works, for my grandchildren fast approaching working age, for the children in the school where I teach, and for all other youngsters. But it is the next step the trade union movement needs to take to get towards that goal that is the burning question of the day.