More than half of all workers in Britain have had a cut in their pay or hours, or lost employment benefits since the start of the recession, according to a new report.
Often such sacrifices will have been made on the pretext of “saving jobs”. Yet at the same time unemployment has rocketed to over 2.2 million.
These stark statistics underline the importance of building a united response to resist the impacts of the recession.
The Fight for the Right to Work conference, on Saturday 13 June in London, is a key date in developing this fightback.
Support for the event is growing. The UCU lecturers’ union became the second nat-ional union to back the conference last week at its congress.
Sixteen delegates also signed up to attend the conference.
Cambridge, Camden and Brent trades councils have all backed the conference.
The CWU postal worker union’s Eastern No 4 branch is supporting it and sending four delegates. Wembley and Hendon Unite branch has also agreed to support it.
Last week Hewlett Packard announced hundreds of job cuts at its factory in Erskine, near Glasgow. Campaigners leafleting workers for the Fight for the Right to Work conference got a good response.
Many people who have signed up are sick of facing a choice between low-paid insecure work or unemployment.
Chris West is an unemployed worker from Luton. “It’s important that the jobs that we fight for are not just crap, low-paid agency jobs,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I’ve done a lot of agency work. You have no rights – if it looks like you might make trouble they just get rid of you. You’re always on a tightrope.
“You drift from dead end job to dead end job. But then the agencies get full and there’s nothing for you to do.
“There’s no chance of getting a proper long-term job from a job centre.”
There is a debate about the best way to respond to attacks on jobs. Some within the labour movement are pushing a disastrous strategy of compromising with the bosses.
The consequences of this can be seen at Honda’s car factory in Swindon, Wiltshire.
Work at the plant restarted on Monday of this week after a four-month shutdown. Thousands of workers have agreed to a 3 percent pay cut for the next ten months after being told that this will save jobs.
Yet some 1,300 people have already lost their jobs at the plant and there is no guarantee that more won’t follow.
Some 27 percent of workers in Britain have had their pay cut over the past nine months, according to a report by the Keep Britain Working campaign.
Meanwhile, 24 percent have had their hours cut and almost a quarter have lost benefits. These measures have not stemmed the rise in unemployment.
However, a number of recent struggles have shown that, when workers fight back they can win. Workers at Doncaster College and Liverpool University have beaten back job cuts.
Visteon workers, who were sacked with nothing at the end of March, have shown that if the bosses face militant action they can be forced to give concessions.
The Fight for the Right to Work conference aims to give workers the confidence to fight job losses and attacks on pay and conditions.
Workers and students who have organised occupations and migrant workers who have fought for their rights will speak, including Clara Osagiede, a cleaners’ rep in the RMT transport union on London Underground.
She told Socialist Worker, “This conference can bring people together from different industries. It can help people understand how they can fight back and give them confidence.”
Delegates will discuss how to build for a huge protest at the Labour Party conference in September and debate ideas for future campaigns.
It is a critical event that can unite workers, the unemployed and students in a campaign to stop ordinary people paying for the economic crisis.
For motions, a draft timetable, more information or to sign up for the conference go to » www.righttowork.org.uk