The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 12      March 28, 2011

Unions call rally against
austerity measures in UK
LONDON—Rising unemployment, declining living standards, government austerity measures, and uncertainty about what the future holds for working people are swelling the numbers planning to join a major union protest in London, March 26.

The “March for the Alternative” demonstration has been called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in response to public spending cuts announced by the government last year. Hundreds of buses from around the country and “every available quality chartered train in the UK has been booked to come to London,” according to the TUC.

It’s important to “stand together in solidarity,” Sinead Dunn, a member of the Unite union in Scotland, is quoted as saying on the union’s website. “I’ll be attending because of the [government’s] cuts and treatment of the NHS” (National Health Service), said BMW auto assembly worker Sveto Prpa.

Workers are feeling the effects of six consecutive years of declining real wages, something not experienced in the United Kingdom since the depression conditions of the 1920s.

Official unemployment continues to hover around 2.5 million—nearly 8 per cent of the workforce—more than a year after the recession was declared over. Unemployment among those ages 16-24 is at nearly 1 million, more than 20 percent, according to official figures. Long-term unemployment and those forced into part-time work is growing.

All this before the full impact of the government austerity package kicks in, which includes plans to cut 330,000 jobs over the next four years. John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, calls it the “job-loss recovery.”

Following a 0.6 percent decline in gross domestic product in the last quarter of 2010, many are questioning if “recovery” is an accurate description, even from the capitalists’ point of view. “A weakening jobs market, muted economic growth, ultra-tight fiscal policy, plus well above target price inflation and the greater prospect of an interest rate hike sometime later this year provide all the ingredients for a ‘perfect storm’ to hit the UK economy,” Philpott said.

The end-of-March rally will be addressed by Labour Party leader Edward Miliband, who was a member of the Labour government when grinding consequences of the economic crisis began to accelerate and affect broader layers of working people. Miliband says that the Tory-Liberal Democrat government cuts are “too far, too fast,” although his party had promised its own massive cuts to welfare if reelected.

The Labour leadership’s message for the upcoming demonstration was explained by Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary: “People marching on Saturday 26 March will make the case for a different programme that gives the economy time to grow, creates a fairer tax system and makes the banks pay their fair share towards closing the deficit they helped cause, and focuses on sustainable green growth rather than rolling back the state.”

Despite the class collaborationist positions of the march organizers, the demonstration will be an important opportunity for militant workers to meet up with others looking to fight and hungry for solidarity, and to develop ties for the battles to come.
Related articles:
Labor-farmer unity in Wisconsin
Keep on expanding labor solidarity
Rallies in states across U.S. demand halt to attacks on public workers
March in Montreal protests budget cuts
Today’s union fights: How we got here and the solidarity we must keep building
California students, teachers protest cuts  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home