The People’s Charter for Change, a major initiative in response to the devastating impact of the recession on working class people, was launched this week.
Eleven trade union leaders, including Bob Crow of the RMT, Matt Wrack of the FBU, Tony Woodley of Unite and Paul Kenny of the GMB, are backing the charter.
“There is real anger that the banks have been allowed to behave with impunity while working people of this country have to pay the price for the banks’ incompetence with their jobs and their homes,” said Matt Wrack.
“It is time that we had the policies that will help the vast majority of this country and not a tiny minority.
“That is why this charter is so important.”
Bob Crow is one of the principal founders of the charter.
He said, “It is time that the voices of the majority of this country were heard.
“I will be actively campaigning up and down the country to get as many signatures as possible so that we make sure the government understands the strength of feeling across Britain.”
Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tony Benn, solicitor Louise Christian, Doreen Lawrence, who is the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen, and John McDonnell MP have all also signed the charter.
It has been launched at a time when the impact of the recession is becoming sharper by the day.
World leaders have put forward a number of solutions to benefit the banks, but the crisis is continuing to deepen.
They expect ordinary people to pay the price for the crisis – with their jobs, homes, pensions and benefits.
This is sparking anger and a debate over how to respond.
“People want to see a real alternative and real change,” says John McDonnell.
“Ordinary people are crying out for policies that will protect jobs and see investment in the programmes that will tackle this economic crisis.
“Our job in the coming months will be to capture that support, providing a voice for the millions of people who aren’t being listened to right now.”
Sasha Callaghan, the president of the UCU lecturers’ union, said, “The People’s Charter is inspirational.
“Its strength is that it has pulled such a wide range of individuals and organisations behind it.
“It covers so many issues and offers a way forward for workers who are being hit by the credit crunch.
“It has caught the imagination of people in the UCU and I think it will get a positive response in colleges and universities.”
Initiators of the charter are hoping to get one million people to sign the charter.
Its aims are based around the idea that working class people shouldn’t pay the price for the bosses’ crisis.
It has six key principles – a fairer economy, more and better jobs, decent homes for all, defending public services, a fair and just Britain, and an end to war.
The charter reads, “Government is spending billions of pounds of our money bailing the banks and big business out of their crisis. It’s not right and we didn’t vote for it.”
To coincide with the launch, supporters of the charter released the results of a specially commissioned opinion poll.
This asked 1,000 people what they thought the government’s priorities should be in the recession.
The results backed the charter’s key demands.
Some 87 percent thought that jobs should be a higher priority than banks.
Over two thirds thought that utilities such as gas and water should be nationalised.
Some 71 percent backed the building of three million affordable homes and 76 percent thought that politicians weren’t listening to them.
The charter is an opportunity to link together different activists and struggles.
Its demands will chime with many ordinary people.
The PCS civil service workers’ union national executive last week voted to back the charter.
Trade unionists should make sure that the charter is passed in their union branches. Activists should discuss how to use the charter to build resistance in their local areas.
There will be many opportunities to hold events and protests in the weeks to come.
For example, chancellor Alistair Darling will make his budget statement on Wednesday 22 April.
This could be a key focus for supporters of the charter to organise events to demand that the government stops bailing out the bankers and puts ordinary people first.
To sign the People’s Charter and for more information go to