By Charlie Kimber and Sophie Squire
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Protests begin after energy cap soars, and we need much more action

This article is over 1 years, 7 months old
Protests outside Ofgem offices in London and Glasgow must be the beginning of a revolt
Issue 2820
Protestors outside Ofgem offices in glasgow holding placards which read lose the late fees, ofgem end this pain fuel increase and Prices are rising and so are we

Around 300 protesters expressed their anger outside Ofgem offices in Glasgow (Picture: Andrew McGowan)

Protests have started after energy regulator Ofgem announced a bitter war on working class people across Britain on Friday. It said the price cap for the average household’s gas and electricity bills would increase by 80 percent to £3,549 for the three months starting in October.

That’s clearly far beyond most people’s wages or benefits. If it stands, then it means mass malnutrition, illness and deaths as people freeze this winter.

Already some people are afraid to turn on the lights, to cook, or turn on the television for fear of the shattering bills. And around 4 million households on pre-payment meters can see their money pouring away and will “self-disconnect” when their cash runs out.

Disabled people will be hit particularly hard. The cost of charging a wheelchair or using a breathing machine will have almost trebled in a year. They will be punished for using more energy or because they need additional heating.

To add to the horror, some experts said the average bill could rise to £7,000 next year—£600 a month. This is a rising social catastrophe—with no action from ministers.

The Tory government is consumed by the leadership contest and has offered nothing. Eventually, Nadhim Zahawi, who is the chancellor, said, “More help is on its way.” That was it.

In Glasgow around 300 people joined an angry and determined protest outside the Ofgem offices on Friday afternoon. Iain Ferguson reports that there were RMT and Unison union banners and activists who had been involved in recent strikes. The protest culminated in people burning energy bills.

UCU union activist Henry Maitles spoke at the rally and called for unions to organise more united action. He also argued that we shouldn’t allow the Tories to divide us and called for support for the Stand Up to Racism day of action against the Rwanda deportations on 5 September. This went down well with the crowd.

Power to the People, which organised the event, stressed its solidarity with the Ofgem workers. It said they had not had an above-inflation deal for 12 years, had their pensions robbed and were hit by job cuts.

protestors holding a black and white banner which reads freeze profits not people

Over 100 protesters gathered outside Ofgem HQ in Canary Wharf, London (Picture: Twitter/ Don’t Pay UK)

Later on Friday over 100 protesters gathered outside Ofgem HQ in Canary Wharf, London. Don’t Pay UK organised the event. As part of it protesters blocked a road in the area. Student Ciara told Socialist Worker “ I’m protesting because people are going to die. The statistics are terrifying. 

“I’m scared for me, I’m scared for my friends and family. My dad’s striking at the moment—he’s a bus driver. More action like this is needed, they’ll be no change unless we do something.” she added. 

James is from Huddersfield but was in London for the protest. He told Socialist Worker that he thought that those in power are using the war in Ukraine to justify price rises. 

“Profits are rising for energy companies and they’ll use any excuse to put their prices up. My family are already in a difficult spot, price hikes will be like salt in the wound,” he said.

James added that he thought the movement against austerity and price hikes should join with the environmental movement. 

Activists held signs reading “Affordable energy now” and “People not profit” and “Blood on Ofgem’s hands.” Protesters chanted, “Freeze profits not people” And, “When you say price hike we say pay strike.” 

Local organiser Alice added, “I cancelled my direct debit in April. I’ve been telling all my neighbours to do the same. What’s clear to me is we need to get rid of the bosses imposing these bills and kick out the Tories as well.” 

One speaker told the crowd, “The Don’t Pay movement is growing, we have 118,000 signups.” 

The Enough is Enough campaign has declared a national day of action on Saturday 1 October, with protests across Britain. That’s good, and everyone should build the protests as big as possible.

But the union leaders who support that campaign, including from the CWU, RMT, Aslef, UCU, FBU and other unions, should be calling strikes around that day. It’s particularly easy for those who already have a strike mandate to name a date to focus the fear and fury over the price rises.

Do they worry this might be seen as against the anti-union laws? The time for such considerations has long passed, if it ever mattered.

It’s inexcusable to treat this as a “business as usual” moment. As well as the fuel price rise, financial markets are betting the Bank of England will more than double interest rates by May next year.

That means base rates of 4 percent or more and mortgages of 5.5 percent. This would potentially see mortgage rises equal to the fuel increase. And landlords will pass that straight on to renters. It will mean a wave of evictions and homelessness unless there is resistance.

It is not impossible to raise such a storm of protest that the government is forced to curb the bills. Even Labour leader Keir Starmer had to come up with a plan to hold down bills. But he doesn’t go far enough.

Strikes and protests have to be big enough to force democratic public ownership of companies such as BP and the energy providers without compensation for the fat cats.

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