TUC March for the Alternative Sees Tens of Thousands
Take to London’s Streets Demanding New Deal for Workers
On Saturday May 12, tens of thousands of working people descended on central London, calling for a new deal for workers and for public services. It was seen as part of the struggle of the workers’ movement to turn things around in a manner which favours them and the progress of society. There were at least 30,000 workers in their trade union contingents, probably more. This itself was a tribute to the organised workers’ movement, since the mobilisation had been carried out primarily through union channels. It was reminiscent of the demonstrations for the alternative and for a future that works which the TUC organised at the behest of Congress some years back.
From early morning, coaches and trains had brought tens of thousands of workers organised in their trade unions to London from all corners of Britain. The majority were in the colours of their union, accompanied by national and local banners, making a deafening noise with hooters and the shouting of slogans. Many union activists spoke of the need for a change in the direction of the economy.
As the CWU pointed out in a post, altogether tens of thousands of activists, members and their families came to London from all walks of life – unions representing manufacturing workers, local authority staff, shop and retail employees, transport and education all marched together in an impressive display of unity and determination. The CWU, it said, turned out the largest mobilisation in the union’s history, with an estimated 3,000 joining its bloc, waving hundreds of flags and proudly parading a total of 44 CWU banners, representing branches and regions all over the UK, from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the North East, North West, Midlands, South West, South East, Eastern and London.
The demonstration started from the Victoria Embankment, marching through central London, and ending up with a rally in Hyde Park. Trade unions including Unite, Unison, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) all had delegations at the march. Other groups present included Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Unite the Community and Health Campaigns Together.
As the TUC points out, three million workers are stuck on zero hours contracts, in agency work and in low-paid self-employment. Workers in the public sector have been denied pay rises which have meant effective cuts in wages and standards of living. The drive of the ruling elite towards privatisation has affected all social programmes and services, and poverty, homelessness and an increase in vulnerability have also been the result of this agenda and the irresponsibility of the ruling elite towards the future of society.
To turn things around, the TUC says: “We’re marching for the alternative. For a growing economy with great jobs in every nation and region of the UK. For a £10 per hour minimum wage and the right to a voice at work. For public services that are brilliant, funded and free at the point of use. And for a society that roots out racism, sexism and discrimination.”
To mark the event, the TUC published data which it said showed that workers were suffering the longest squeeze on wages in modern history. A decade on from the financial crisis, real wages are worth £24 a week less than in 2008 and are not forecast to return to pre-crash levels until 2025, the TUC said.
The march ended in a rally, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and leaders of the country’s biggest unions addressing the crowds. Jeremy Corbyn condemned the treatment of workers and vowed that the next Labour government will legislate against unscrupulous employment practices and create a new Ministry of Labour. He said, “This demonstration today is about workers’ rights, it is about collective endeavour but above all, it’s a declaration that we’re around to campaign as long as it takes, to bring about that social justice and that decency in society.”
The TUC itself emphasised that it is building a sustained campaign.
There must be a new way of running the economy in which the experience and organisation of the working class is brought to bear. The block on the right of the working class to solve the problems of society and to change the direction of the economy must be consciously fought and challenged. New forms of governance, new politics, new relations of production must be conceptualised and fought for. This is a necessity so that society can set an aim in conformity with modern forms of socialised production and social existence.
The working class must exercise its leadership in all fields of society, including against war and militarisation and for an economy and society in which health and education are recognised as rights for all and a budget is set which serves such an economy, and global trade and other international relations are based on friendship and mutual benefit, not on aggression and intervention.