The TUC has called a march and rally for 12 May under the slogan of a “new deal for working people”. There is plenty to protest about.
The cuts since the 2008 crash are overwhelming. There has been a decline in real wages. The NHS has been brought to its knees. At the start of May we heard that one million more children are growing up in poverty since 2010, due to in-work cuts in benefit.
Britain’s trade union movement will be a powerful partner for Labour in government, backing and fighting for policies that will surely be under attack from the capitalists, and the media. That is why 12 May must be the starting point of our trade unions gearing up for that government organisationally and politically.
The TUC’s demands for the demonstration are Labour demands and are good, as far as they go: fund the NHS and public services, ban zero-hours contracts, up the minimum wage to £10 per hour, repeal the Trade Union Act and crack down on tax dodgers. But do these demands amount to a “new deal”?
If the TUC were even to amplify Labour’s existing policies, for a more redistributive tax system and to renationalise the railways and some utilities, it would have a more coherent message.
In fact, to be able to get a real grip on economic life currently mired in capitalist profiteering, the TUC and Labour need more radical economic measures such as wholesale nationalisation of the big six energy companies, under workers’ control, and bringing high finance under public ownership and democratic control.
We need socialist policies, geared to replacing profit as the motor of economic life by working-class democracy and principles of social solidarity.
To achieve a minimum wage and ban zero-hours contracts, trade unions need to be doing much more organising in those workplaces that are currently unorganised, where workers are hyper-exploited.
The big, still powerful, trade unions need to turn outwards, learning from the example of the Bakers’ Union organising McDonald’s workers, and of smaller unions which have organised cleaners, delivery workers, security guards and others, often migrant workers.
Scrapping the Trade Union Act will help, 2017 Labour conference to scrap the older anti-union laws pushed through by Thatcher
Despite all that is good about the TUC event, it lacks ambition. Fundamentally that is because union members have not nearly enough power over deciding the unions’ political priorities.
The left needs to fight for: greater rank-and-file control, for unions which are organised by lay people who share members’ experience of low wages and tough workplace conditions, for unions where the top elected officials get a worker’s wage, not the managerial-type salaries taken by Unite leader Len McCluskey (£140,000 in 2014) or Frances O’Grady (£152,000).
Labour’s policy confusion and economic gloom over the prospect of Brexit is becoming a politically debilitating factor. Our movement sorely needs to raise its game. More than ever we need trade unions that want to organise across the entire working-class.
Including the sick and the disabled and unemployed who are suffering the devastating effects of Universal Credit. Including, not ignoring, our fellow workers from the EU who need us to carry on fighting for freedom of movement. Including poor and undocumented migrants who are being squeezed out of access to public services.