The scale of the economic crisis, which has seen rising prices and attacks on workers’ living standards, is leading to increased support for the People Before Profit Charter.
The charter puts forward ten demands to improve the lives of working people. Supporters of the charter protested outside the building where Centrica, the owner of British Gas, announced £992 million profits last week.
They demanded a windfall tax on the company. The protest received widespread media coverage, with pictures of it on the front page of the London Paper, and the Morning Star. It even appeared in the Sun.
A number of postal workers signed the charter at a protest on Monday of this week (see page 14) to support of three Bristol CWU trade union activists who are facing victimisation.
Signatories included: Dave Ward, the deputy general secretary (postal) of the CWU communications union; David Wilshire, branch secretary of Bristol CWU; and Paula Franklin, one of three victimised activists.
With the energy giants hiking their fuel prices massively, these are also worrying times for old age pensioners.
There are currently 2.1 million pensioners living in poverty, up from 1.8 million last year. The increasing pressure on their pension will throw many more into poverty.
The plight of pensioners has got increasingly worse since Margaret Thatcher cut the link between pensions and wages in 1980. This means the basic state pension is just £90.70 a week.
Trade unions and campaigners are demanding that the basic pension rate be increased to £124.05 a week.
The charter’s calls for the abolition of taxes on fuel and energy for old people and the poor, and for the link between wages and pensions to be re-established.
This demand is winning support for the charter among pensioners, such as Gordon McLennan, a pensioner activist in Lambeth, south London, and former general secretary of the Communist Party.
Gordon told Socialist Worker, “I agree with the general proposals of the charter, but I am particularly interested in the point about the fight for higher pensions and the abolition of tax on fuel and energy for old people and the poor.
“There are plenty of reasons for pensioners to back the charter. We have the scandal where electricity and gas prices are going up, sometimes at the rate of 40 percent.
“We have a situation where pensioners are being increasingly forced into a corner, both in society and economically.
“There is no response to this from present day politicians. We are being ignored. The local council’s newspaper doesn’t have a word about elderly people in it.
“The government is increasing our winter fuel allowance by £100 when gas and electricity bills are going up by a lot more. Some 300,000 pensioners have dropped into poverty in the last year.
“The kind of feeling that pensioners have about all this must be built up to have a massive impact on 22 October.
“That’s when we will lobby parliament to demand a decent state pension and to celebrate 100 years of the state pension.”