TRADES Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady’s speech to its annual conference contained no call for action from the unions to fight Tory attacks on the working class.
Instead, it was an open appeal for the Tories to bring the trade leaders on board to collaborate in rescuing a drowning capitalist system.
O’Grady made it clear that the TUC are fully aware of the crisis and shocks that immediately face the working class, and the huge poverty already dumped on their shoulders by over a decade of Tory austerity, to bail out the bosses and bankers after the 2008 global financial crash and, most recently, the Covid pandemic. She said that the pandemic was not the only crisis we face and that a massive wage-cutting, job-cutting and unemployment crisis looms.
She told Congress: ‘If pay had continued to grow at its pre-crash rates, the average worker would be £5,900 better off.’ This begs the question – what were the TUC and trade union leaders doing to defend the wages of workers from Tory wage freezes throughout the highly unionised public sector under this austerity onslaught?
The answer is absolutely nothing.
For O’Grady, the only answer to poverty level wages is to appeal to the bosses to increase wages because the biggest threat to the capitalist economy is ‘low demand’ and ‘the way to fix low demand is to pay higher wages’ because workers spend their wages and this will ‘drive the real economy’.
There is no need for unions to fight for wage increases, all they need to do is convince the bosses that the way to kick-start capitalism out of its greatest-ever crisis is to pay workers a few pence more to spend in the high street!
Millions of workers are struggling already to feed, clothe and house their families, while the £20 a week cut in Universal Credit benefit will push them right over the edge into absolute destitution – they want independent unions to fight for them against the Tories and bosses, not collaborate with them.
O’Grady made great play about the importance of the union leadership in aiding the Tories to escape the wrath of workers.
She said: ‘We know that we are all better off when unions are listened to. Just look at furlough. An idea forged in the engine room of the trade union movement.’ Furlough was not a ‘great union achievement’ as O’Grady boasts. The Tories created the furlough scheme because they feared a mass uprising of millions of workers suddenly thrown out of work – they were not prepared to deal with a pandemic and mass strike action at the same time.
These jobs weren’t saved – they are now in line for mass unemployment as companies close down while fire and rehire wage cutting is the new norm for any jobs that do remain.
The Tories are demanding that workers pay for furlough and the £2.3 trillion national debt run up saving British capitalism.
O’Grady is fully aware that, despite all Tory claims of a ‘bounce back’, the world crisis of capitalism has not gone away but is intensifying.
She said: ‘The UK must be better prepared for crises in the future, and they are coming.’
The role of the unions, as far as O’Grady is concerned, in preparing for the crisis was summed up in an appeal to: ‘Invite unions in with employers’ imploring them to ‘get us around the table’ and that the ‘movement is ready’ to come to the aid of capitalism in a corporatist deal to sell out the working class.
O’Grady and the union bureaucrats are preparing to surrender the independence of the trade union movement in return for a seat at the table with the Tories and employers where they will be willing accomplices to try to hold back a mass uprising of workers.
These leaders must be sacked, driven out of the movement and a new leadership built that will mobilise the huge strength of the working class in mass strike action to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government.
A workers’ government will expropriate the bosses and bankers and advance to a socialist planned economy – that alone can provide a future for workers and young people.