TWO-HUNDRED workers, trade unionists, students and youth attended the News Line-All Trades Unions Alliance (ATUA) Conference at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, in Holborn, Central London on Saturday and voted unanimously for the Main Resolution (printed at end of article).
A powerful delegation of Care UK Strikers from Doncaster got great support from the conference as they told of their fight against the privateers who have taken over their NHS jobs and are cutting their pay and conditions and undermining the vital service they provide.
Speakers from the platform and the floor called for a general strike to bring down the Tory Coalition government.
Moving the main resolution, ATUA National Secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘This is a decisive time in history, not just for the British but for the world’s working class. Nothing in history compares with the complete breakdown of world capitalism today.
‘We have David Cameron saying we must have austerity to pay off the debts, but they can’t pay off the debt, the figures are huge. Whether it’s £1.2 trillion as some put it, or £3 trillion as others say, it can’t be paid off. But they are trying. Over four years, workers have lost up to £6,000 a year through pay freezes as inflation has soared ahead.
‘For the unemployed, capitalism has worse in store – zero-hours contracts, which all unemployed are forced to take from this week. When they talk about zero-hours contracts it brings to mind the days of the 19th century when the bosses picked the “blue-eyed boys” and said “you can have a morning’s work”, “you can have a couple of hours”, and anyone who had any fight in them was left with no work and no money.
‘This is the future capitalism has got for the whole working class, this is to become the norm.
‘Yesterday, Cameron said if the Tories are re-elected he will get rid of strikes. There are food banks in every single part of the country. There are 2.4 million children living in poverty. Shelter says millions of families are one pay cheque away from destitution.
‘They’ve been pumping trillions of dollars into the banks. The Bank of England governor said last week he was really worried about a new bubble. It’s going to get worse. It’s not that we’ve turned a corner, we are heading for one almighty crash. They are getting ready for it. They have assembled a class war government and declared war on the working class of Britain and the world.
‘And, while they are bankrupt, they have billions of pounds for their imperialist adventures.
‘As Lenin said, imperialism is the epoch of wars and revolutions. Why have they unleashed these fascist murderers in Ukraine? Imperialism in its crisis is driven to reconquer the countries it was driven out of in the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.
‘In Britain this government can offer nothing but hospital closures and zero hours contracts, and abroad the obscenity of backing to the hilt the fascists in Ukraine. We support the arming of the Ukrainian masses and if necessary the Red Army marching on Kiev to drive out the fascists.
‘What’s needed is to mobilise the full strength of the working class to kick this government out. That’s why we’re lobbying the TUC General Council meetings on June 25th and July 23rd to demand it calls a general strike to bring down this government. And that’s why we support the Young Socialists march from London to the TUC Congress in Liverpool to demand the TUC fights.’
The next speaker was Young Socialist Editor Paul Lepper. He said: ‘In this important and powerful time workers and youth from Brazil to Britain are fighting for a life and demanding revolution. Young people are the hardest hit. In Greece it’s civil war, in Spain the young are rising up, in Ukraine it’s youth in the frontline to defeat fascism.
‘In Britain, there are over a million youth unemployed. Zero hours contracts are disgusting. How are you supposed to build a life? It is slavery, like back in the days of the docks when you were just lined up, no contracts, just a cheap labour source.
‘They want a whole generation for cheap labour. Jobcentres are just places for criminalising young people. They slap you with sanctions. They are now saying if you don’t take these slave labour contracts you lose your benefits.
‘They are destroying education, turning it into a complete business. They scrapped EMA, brought in £9,000 fees, they are smashing council housing, telling us we have to live at home to 34 and beyond – well, we won’t accept it.
‘When we fight the world changes. We are in the same struggle as the Tube workers, lecturers, firefighters – these are our jobs that they are defending. But these limited actions are not good enough today. If you fight all the way, you win. Look at the Ealing strike – where you fight you win.
‘But the words on everyone’s lips are for a General Strike and we are taking this fight right to the government. Last year, we took the TUC Conference by storm. We marched right up there and they couldn’t stop us.
‘We need a general strike to bring this government down. That’s what we’re marching from London to Liverpool for, to demand the TUC calls a general strike to kick this government out. This is a powerful and exciting time in history. We’ve got the opportunity to wipe this disgusting system off the face of the world. Join us on the march for a socialist future.’
Roger Hutt from the Care UK Strikers, said: ‘We are all support workers who for different lengths of time worked for the NHS.
‘Last year, we were put over to the inappropriately named Care UK. The people we care for have very complex needs. By Care UK wanting to substantially cut our conditions, we fear for the quality of service we provide.
‘These carpetbagging privateers are only motivated by money. We have with a heavy heart made the difficult decision to take strike action. We have been on strike since last Monday and have another eight days to go.
‘We remain solid and resolute and we are receiving overwhelming backing. We’re fighting and will continue to fight with every fibre in our bodies until we are successful.’
Leaflets handed to delegates by the Care UK strikers explained how the privateer was imposing 35% pay cuts, cutting eight days holiday and bringing in savage cuts to sick pay. The leaflet warned that staff are in danger of losing their homes and that the vulnerable adults in supported living are in danger of losing their loyal carers who support them.
Tess Kelly, NASUWT, said: ‘My school has become an academy and has been taken over by a horrendous company. Workload has increased dramatically and the school day is to be extended from September. I am disappointed with my union, because they are more interested in negotiating than taking action.’
Colin Jones, Holloway FBU, said: ‘I’ve been in the Fire Brigade for 25 years and it’s getting so bad now. Fire cuts came in on 9th January with the Fire Safety Plan, leading to the closure of 10 London fire stations, cuts of 14 fire engines and two specialist appliances.
‘They have handed 27 fire engines over to scab crews, which they’ve fitted with cameras. They call them Emergency Fire Crews. We call them scabs. Now there are not enough fire engines and we’ve got trained staff just going round in cars fitting smoke alarms.
‘What we are actually striking over is pensions. They are trying to make us work until 60. Their objective is to dismiss you before you can make it to 60.
‘The other worrying issue is privatisation. Everything is outsourced and privately owned. Let’s get a national strike as early as possible now and really show we mean business.’
Bill Rogers, Secretary of the North East London Council of Action, said: ‘The Council of Action was formed after our trade union branch resolved unanimously to occupy the A&E and Maternity units threatened with closure in our area.
‘After fighting for years to defend Chase Farm we actually went in and occupied the hospital last year and they brought in the riot police against us. But it turned out in court that what we did was legal. The trade union leaders didn’t lift a finger against the 9th December closure of Chase Farm A&E last year and within five weeks of it closing a two-year-old child died as a result.
‘A couple of weeks later they had to declare an internal emergency at Barnet Hospital with 19 ambulances queuing up. During the struggle at Chase Farm the trade unions did absolutely nothing. In July, Chase Farm is being taken over by the Royal Free in Hampstead Heath. They call it a merger, but in fact it’s an acquisition. They are going to sell off the beautiful grounds at Chase Farm. They are going to use Chase Farm as a cash cow.
‘Under the Health and Social Care Act the clinical commissioning groups are obliged to offer all the services out to the privateers and now Health Secretary Hunt has got the power to close any hospital. We have to bring this government down and we give our full support to the YS march from London to Liverpool in September.’
Comfort Akindiji, a retired nurse, said: ‘Once a teacher always a teacher, once a nurse always a nurse. Is the NHS improving? No, it’s going down, critically going down.
‘We have seen the writing on the wall. Nurses are not being properly looked after, patients are not being properly looked after. Nurses have not got enough time for their patients.
‘Privatisation – they’ve turned hospitals into commercial use. What are we going to do about it?
‘People are suffering. When are we going to achieve our objectives? Kick this government out.’
Domingos Fernandez, Ealing Hospital striker, said: ‘We had a very tough time. Medirest was not paying us a decent salary, no sick pay and the other unions would not fight for us so we started to work with the GMB union. Unite and Unison would not support us for a single day and they started chasing the GMB Regional Organiser.
‘But the GMB fought for us and we fought and went on strike and we won. We won a pay rise and in 2015 they are going to pay us £9.30 an hour.’
Helen Cannell, Ucatt, said: ‘The Labour Party is leaning more and more to the right. As a zero-hours contract worker in the care industry, what we have to do and what we earn is diabolical. We are going back to a draconian way of working.’
Lee Thompson, Southall Workers Revolutionary Party, said: ‘All round the country workers are fighting. I’ve been to picket lines of the firefighters where they were defending their jobs and our fire service. All the gains made by previous generations are being taken away.
‘Every day more people are turning 18 and it’s their jobs and their rights that are being taken away.
‘Signing on is becoming a job now! This government has to be kicked out – they’ve got their mission, we need to have ours.’
Jonty Leff, speaking for the News Line Editorial Board, said: ‘The News Line fights for workers all over the world, for all workers in struggle. It doesn’t pull its punches, but it’s not just a propaganda sheet, it’s a weapon.
‘Every single section of society is being revolutionised – people who are working five, six or seven days a week and still cannot afford their bills. Rickets and malnutrition are back in Britain, hundreds of thousands of people are facing eviction.
‘In past days there was no Welfare State, there was the concept of the deserving and the undeserving poor. Now if you don’t accept zero-hours contracts you get slung off your benefits. We won’t be driven back to the conditions of the 19th century.
‘The future of young people is intrinsically combined with that of the working class. The only way forward is to replace capitalism with a higher form of society.
‘To defend hospitals, fire stations, libraries today becomes a struggle to occupy, take them over. We occupied Chase Farm. We were outside the hospital for 487 days and the Unison leadership wouldn’t come out. We demanded a meeting for their sack-threatened members.
‘The Unison leaders said no-one would come to a meeting, but 100 came. The Unison leaders said, “There’s nothing we can do about your jobs, but we can give you counselling!”
‘The Unison leaders are now campaigning for a 1% pay rise. How can you campaign for 1%? We need a workers government. News Line is very conscious that the struggle for socialism is an international struggle. The enemy is at home.
‘Labour was forced to vote against the war in Syria by the massive hostility of the working class to any war with Syria.’
He added: ‘In the Ukraine, workers are refusing to accept imperialism. Throughout the Ukraine workers are fighting the coup government. We must give them our full support. The best way to do this is to bring down the Cameron government which supports the Kiev coupists 100%.
‘The British working class is angry at the attacks of the coalition and they are even angrier at the actions of their own trade union leaders. For two years now, they’ve been looking at the practicalities of a general strike.
‘We’re marching from London to Liverpool, to the TUC Congress, starting in August. It’s time to make the TUC carry out the will of the working class and bring down this government.
‘If they won’t call a general strike, the TUC leaders must resign and make way for those who will. This why the Young Socialists are marching on the TUC Congress and the whole working class must support it.’
The Main Resolution was put to the vote and passed unanimously.
All Trades Unions Alliance National Conference:
Saturday 10 May 2014
WE call on all trade unionists and youth to unite in struggle against this vicious austerity government. Everyone is under attack by the huge cuts that are taking place or are being planned for our jobs, benefits, healthcare and services such as London Underground. Now is the time to bring the government down!
Workers in every industry are being forced to bear the brunt of this economic crisis while the bankers and bosses that caused the crisis, enjoy massive bonuses. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been axed in the public services as the welfare state is being dismantled. Meanwhile, 1.4 million people have been forced onto zero-hours contracts, where they are at the beck and call of the employer, whose position as their ‘master’ has been restored.
The mass closure of A&Es and maternity departments in hospitals, which has commenced, has proven devastating. Lives are being lost where these emergency services no longer exist and patients have been forced to travel miles for treatment. As a result there is huge overcrowding, inadequate numbers of doctors and nurses and long waiting times, while plans are afoot to charge immigrant families for healthcare, as a preliminary to charging everybody.
GP surgeries are also under attack with the latest budget cuts creating conditions where surgeries face bankruptcy and will be forced to close. Some drugs that can cure cancer will no longer be available on the NHS as they are too expensive. The NHS is becoming a business while 40 NHS trusts are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Education fares no better. The move to force state schools to become academies and the introduction of free schools has proved another disaster. Some of the free schools are now being closed as they have proved too costly, and alongside academies have been condemned for low or no education standards, the employment of unqualified teachers, and a refusal to allow teachers the rates of pay and conditions negotiated by the trade unions.
Lecturers are also underpaid with huge cuts in courses, with many being brought in on zero-hours contracts to ‘save money’.
The whole of the public sector is being offered – at the most – a 1% pay increase! Everyone knows this is a pay cut with the cost of living soaring. That’s why 1% is being rejected. We say all workers must get at least a 10% pay increase as a minimum and receive a living wage as the least.
Zero-hours contracts are an abomination and must be banned by the trade unions and made illegal by parliament. They mark the end of trade union rights, and return workers to the 19th century. The struggle of the working class won legislation that protected their employment – the 8 hour day, safe working conditions, sick pay and holiday pay. The clock is being forced back by the crisis of the capitalist system. This is why capitalism must be overthrown and replaced by socialism.
Young people are the worst hit. They have had their EMA stopped so that many cannot continue with further education. They face at least £9,000 fees to go to university, making it prohibitive for working class families. They are expected to go on Workfare or similar schemes where they are expected to work for nothing as ‘good experience’. Youth have no future to look forward to under this bankrupt system.
Unemployed workers and youth are treated as ‘criminals’. Using almost any pretext, the JobCentres sanction you, stopping benefits for weeks and months sometimes. Now everyone will be forced to take a zero-hours contract job or benefits will cease.
Housing conditions are no better. Soaring rents in places like London have priced large numbers of families out of the capital. The bedroom tax has forced thousands of evictions while council housing is replaced with expensive private housing estates.
The trade union leaders have, in most cases, accepted these conditions and allowed the TUC to keep discussing the ‘practicalities of calling a general strike’, year after year, like a ‘Carry On farce’ rather than insist one is called and the hated coalition removed and replaced by a workers government.
Instead, there have been hours strikes, or a few days of action which are ineffective. This stance has allowed fire stations to close, hospitals to close, jobs to disappear while major state companies like Royal Mail were sold off for a song without the union leaders lifting a finger.
All these austerity measures have not improved the economy one bit. In fact it has got worse with greater debts, and Britain faces the same type of disaster that has destroyed Greece and other EU states.
The government has spent billions on wars to try and grab the resources, particularly the oil wealth, from other countries but this has proved disastrous for the working class of the world. The war against Iraq, the war on Afghanistan, the destruction of Libya has achieved nothing for imperialism but created mountains of corpses and destroyed advanced countries like Libya and Iraq, turning them into backward states where militias seek to grab the national resources for their own private profit. Now imperialism is supporting and assisting the right-wing coup in the Ukraine, which is an attempt to destroy the gains of a nationalised economy and in the name of ‘democracy’ to try and force Ukraine to enter the EU, as its semi-colony.
The US-EU and UK imperialists used fascist movements to carry through the Ukrainian coup and are now supporting the bloody deeds of these forces, including the burning down with over 50 deaths of the Odessa Trades Unions Hall.
Fascism must not be allowed to rise again in Europe. Ukrainian workers must not fight alone. The ‘Hero Cities’ of Kharkov, Odessa, Donetsk, and many others, defeated the fascists in the 1940s and will not submit to imperialism and its fascist stormtroopers of the Right Sector today. We support the slogan of the workers that mourned the dead of the Trades Unions Hall fire – ‘Never Forget and Never Forgive’.
The working class refused to support the war on Syria. It must act again and stop this warmongering government that is fighting the working class both at home and abroad and bring it down with a general strike.
We will lobby the next meetings of the general council of the TUC on June 25 and July 23, to demand it calls a general strike to bring down the Cameron government because of its crimes against the working class at home and abroad, and demand the TUC supports the Ukrainian workers against this right-wing coup. The TUC must be made to stop dithering over a general strike and must call it to put an end to the Cameron government.
Bringing down the Cameron regime will be a major blow against imperialism on behalf of the working class all over the world. This coalition must be replaced with a workers government based on building a socialist planned economy. This is the only way our youth will have a future, our NHS restored and life will become bearable for millions.
We will therefore give our full support to the Young Socialists who are calling a National March from London to Liverpool, ending with a mass lobby of the TUC Congress on Sunday September 7, to demand that the TUC call a general strike to bring down the Cameron government and bring in a workers government and socialism.
We urge every section of the working class, the youth and the trade unions to give full support to this vital action!