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March for Scottish independence + Contesting pension attacks + Class battle on coronation day

Plus an uplifting example of striking on coronation day
Issue 2854
A sea of Scottish Saltire flags

On the streets of Glasgow

Thousands of people joined a march in Glasgow for Scottish independence last Saturday as the coronation took place. All Under One Banner (AUOB), which called the march, said, “We are proud to announce that over 20,000 people took to the streets”, although many would have said it was smaller.

AUOB added, “The desire for self-determination is strong.”

The march is a reminder that despite the Scottish National Party’s crisis, the issue of whether there should be another independence referendum has not gone away. And if there is a hung parliament after the next British general election the SNP could, and should demand such a vote.

Socialist Worker’s front page attacking the coronation and the royals was a big hit with many of the marchers.

First Minister Humza Yousaf was at Westminster Abbey for the coronation. He was in a “kilt in the Spirit of Glasgow tartan with an Asian fusion-style jacket and waistcoat,” as a report in The National newspaper had it. The SNP is as mainstream as ever.

But AUOB also faces new arguments. Speakers from Alex Salmond’s Alba party and its co-thinkers featured heavily on last Saturday’s platform.

Alba attacks the extension of trans rights and is just as pro-business as the SNP.  The search for a radical approach to independence continues.

Protester in red jacket with Unite union flag flanked by placards saying 68 is too late

The Unite union and pensioner organisations protested outside parliament (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Yes, 68 is too late to get a pension—and so is 66

Pensioner organisations and the Unite union demonstrated outside parliament last week against a possible rise in the age at which people can claim a full state pension. It’s 66 for workers retiring now and set to rise to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2046.

The government recently indicated it would bring forward the rise to 68 for millions of workers aged 44 to 52. Then, knowing how unpopular that would be, ministers announced they will delay this decision until after a general election.

Campaigners handed in a petition with nearly 40,000 signatures against the move last week.

Caren Evans, Unite national officer for retired members said, “Unless Rishi Sunak completely rules out raising the state pension age, I believe the odds are firmly in favour of a nasty surprise for middle aged workers after the election if the Tories win.

“After 13 years of austerity and public sector cuts the Tories can’t be trusted with the state pension. That’s why we are demanding rock-solid assurances ruling out any further rises.”

In fact, unions should be demanding the pension age is reduced—although they know Labour has no plans to do that after the next election. Life expectancy is no longer rising, and there is a massive class difference in how long people live.

Profits at Britain’s largest companies are now 89 percent higher than before the pandemic, but workers are not seeing that.

As French workers have shown, in fighting a rise to a pension age of 64, it’s time to hit back.

Serious and determined workers fill a street with Union Jack bunting above them. They have orange and black GMB flags.

Battle among the bunting as striking traffic wardens demonstrated on 6 May (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Class battle by Westminister traffic wardens on coronation day

Traffic wardens employed by NSL, the parking contractor for Westminster council, struck last week—including on coronation day. The council lost a considerable amount of money due to the action.

It was heartening to see striking workers marching amid the royal bunting.

GMB union members have rejected a below‑inflation pay offer. They were even more angry after a manager physically blocked strikers from using the site toilet on the picket line last week.

Alex Etches, GMB organiser said, “This is disgraceful behaviour from a company that has grown fabulously rich off the public purse.

“NSL makes tens of millions in profit, because of our members’ hard work, yet they are treated like naughty children by bosses.”

First signs of fightback in local government on pay

Local government workers in two major unions have voted to reject the government’s pay offer for England and Wales.

Members of the Unite union voted by 75 percent to say no to the deal, and GMB members returned a vote of some 64 percent to reject.

Both were consultative ballots, and the Tory anti‑union laws say that another formal industrial ballot must be completed before workers could strike

Full-time workers have been offered just £1,925 for the 2023-24 financial year, despite their living costs soaring through the roof.

Part-time and term-time workers are set to receive even less.

GMB national officer Sharon Wilde said, “We now call on the Local Government Association to return to the table and make an improved offer that recognises the true value of our members working in our schools and across our councils. 

“We will also be calling on central government to provide additional funding to allow employers and schools to pay more and invest in their workforce.”

Unison, the biggest union representing workers in local government, is due to start balloting its 370,000 local government and schools members on 23 May.

It should throw everything behind getting a strong vote to reject, putting pressure on the bosses and the government.

Activists must build the Yes vote for strikes and in the course of the campaign create networks that can push the union leaders for effective action.

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