‘CALL A GENERAL STRIKE’ – lobby urges TUC General Council

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Young Socialists lobby CWU General Secretary BILLY HAYES for support
Young Socialists lobby CWU General Secretary BILLY HAYES for support

OVER 200 Young Socialists and trade unionists lobbied the General Council of the TUC on Wednesday morning as it assembled to discuss the calling of a General Strike against mass unemployment and the government’s austerity policy.

Finance union Aegis general secretary Brian Linn told News Line: ‘There is support for a General Strike (on the General Council). The question is about the legality of it.’

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: ‘Unite has been pushing for co-ordinated industrial action, at the moment we have to see how it goes.’

NUT national executive member Mark Powell-Davis spoke at the rally ahead of the meeting.

He said: ‘We demand that the General Council act on Congress decisions and not just consider the practicalities of a General Strike but name a day.

‘Gove (the Education Secretary) has announced new attacks on teachers’ pay and on our conditions.

‘The longer the unions hold back, the more the government pushes forward.

‘We have to get off the back foot, and we can do it.

‘The NUT is starting a programme of action on June 27.

‘Teachers feel those strikes have got to come as soon as possible.

‘Teachers unions are taking national strike action in November.

‘The TUC should bring all the unions out together then against the common enemy.’

A delegation of sacked London Underground (LU) station staff were at the lobby.

One of the 33 agency workers contracted to LU, Ash Parmar, told News Line: ‘Our contract was just terminated, two weeks before Christmas.

‘Most of us had been working for five years.

‘Instead of taking us on full time, LU terminated the contract and we lost our jobs.

‘We’re here campaigning to get our jobs back.

‘We want the union leaders to call a strike of all the Underground if it comes to it.

‘A General Strike is a good idea.

‘This government is no good for working people. We need to bring it down.

‘It’s ridiculous, since they’ve been in power all the bills and costs have gone up.

‘People are having to beg and borrow.’

RMT South of England organiser Peter Skelly told News Line: ‘We’re lobbying for a General Strike as the start of a concerted campaign – a series of days.

‘An indefinite strike is impractical,’ he claimed.

RMT National Secretary Steve Todd said: ‘We’ve had the demonstrations in London, two big marches.

‘We’ve had all the talk, we need action now.

‘We want to bring this government to their senses. We want to bring them down.’

Skelly added: ‘We don’t want to bring them down to replace them with a Labour government that’s going to to the same.

‘It’s got to be a government that takes some positive action to reverse the terrible situation we are all enduring.

‘Renationalise the industries, get people back building schools and houses.’

Hundreds also lobbied the House of Lords on Wednesday urging it to quash Regulation 75 of the Health and Social Care Act.

Several unions and campaign groups spoke of the need to get rid of competitive tendering aimed at the wholesale and mandatory privatisation of the National Health Service.

Tony Brewer, retired medical engineer for the NHS, said: ‘This Saturday there is a march from Southall and Acton to Ealing Common for the follow up to our successful march last September where over 5,000 people marched to save the local hospitals.

‘When profits from the banks dried up, the bankers and venture capitalists needed a new way of making profit.

‘So the private sector started giving the Conservative Party a lot of money, lobbying them to support their agenda of turning healthcare into a profitable business.’

Alexis Chase from Tower Hamlets said: ‘I just can’t believe we are seeing this frontal attack on our NHS. I wouldn’t be here if it were not for the NHS. It’s crazy.

‘There has been a constant attack on the NHS under Labour and under Conservatives.

‘Privatisation is storming ahead full-steam, and we haven’t been able to stop it.

‘It needs much more vocal opposition from the unions and from Labour.’

RMT members joined the lobby against Regulation 75, and spoke to News Line about the fight the union is engaged in to win better contracts for the cleaning staff on the railways, who at present are sourced from an agency.

RMT Rep Leon Brumant said: ‘This privatisation is affecting all the industries.

‘At the moment on the railways they are trying to casualise labour and make workers’ lives more precarious by keeping people on agency conditions.

‘It allows management to exploit workers more intensely and throw them away when they start to fight back.

‘They are purposefully making more people unemployed, which is good for the capitalists.

‘We were at the TUC demonstrating this morning to get them to call a General Strike. It needs all the unions to come together.’

The Consultant Action Committee spokesperson said: ‘We want MPs to fight the case for better health policies – an NHS not based on private property and competition but based on collaboration, which is what we have at the moment.’

Phil Rose, Unite Campaign Organiser, said: ‘If the Lords reject the legislation, then it sends the government back to Stage 1, and the government will have an Act which has no teeth.’

Asked if the unions should organise a General Strike to force the government to resign, Rose claimed: ‘We should not be asking what the unions can do. The unions are only part of a weak labour movement’.

Sandra and Liz, campaigners from Charing Cross Hospital, said: ‘We came to support our NHS and let people know what is happening to our hospital.

‘We want the Lords to quash the new legislation that will allow them to privatise the NHS.’