Tens of thousands of people have joined the TUC union federation march in London for a “new deal for workers”.
Chants of, “Tory, Tory, Tory—out, out, out” rang out on the Embankment this morning as people gathered.
There was a deep sense of bitterness at more than seven years of Tory austerity and their contempt for working class people. Idris, a CWU union member from Mount Pleasant sorting office, told Socialist Worker, “The first thing we have to do is stop what’s going on now.
“The division between rich and poor is getting bigger. You had the Grenfell Tower fire happen almost a year ago. That wouldn’t have happened in a posh area of Kensington.”
Workers were angry at poverty pay, rising workloads and cuts to the public services they deliver.
Rachel, a Unison union member and hospital worker, had come as part of a delegation from Bedford. “They just keep cutting everything in the service,” she told Socialist Worker. “It’s too much and we can’t take anymore.
“You’ve got accident and emergency units at bursting point, staff are trying but finding it hard.
“I don’t think Theresa May thinks about anything that’s good for anyone.”
A big issue across the different sections of the march was poverty pay. It’s been caused by the Tories’ public sector pay cap, which has seen health workers lose around 14 percent in since the got into office in 2010.
As Rachel said, “Everything is going up—apart from our pay.”
Karen and Sheila, PCS union members working for HM Revenue and Customs in South Wales, echoed the anger around pay. “I’m marching because I want a pay rise,” Karen told Socialist Worker. “Paying for anything extra, like going out, is a big thing.”
Sheila agreed. “We’ve had ten years of pay cuts and workers are shattered”, she told Socialist Worker. “There’s a lot about how great productivity is—but we never get anything.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said before the march that workers have had enough. “There is a new mood in the country,” she said. “People are demanding a new deal.”
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “This is the start of a serious challenge for a new deal for all workers.
While there’s a lot of workers’ anger over pay, union leaders have not matched that with the sort of action that’s needed to win a real pay rise. Karen said, “The worst thing union leaders can do right now is to settle, they should be continually pushing for strikes.
“I’m not saying getting a pay rise is easy but without strikes you won’t get anywhere—and we can win it.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is due to speak at the rally in Hyde Park later this afternoon.
There was a sense of optimism that a Corbyn-led government would stop the Tory assaults—but many on the march didn’t see what could be done until the next election.
Ebrahim, a Unite union member, pointed out that the Tory government is in “chaos”. “The policies that they’re pursuing will lead to massive job cuts,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We need to change the government, but the next general election is not soon.”
Idris said unions should keep the pressure up before a general election. “You’ve got to keep your campaigns running,” he said. “The general election isn’t the only thing that determines what the government does.”
The Tories are weak and divided—and a serious fight could push them out.