People first – not profit

richie96by Richie Venton

Every passing day adds its own story of ruthless exploitation and suffering for the profit of the few; its own reason why we need to muster a mass STUC demonstration in Glasgow on 1st October, to bolster the resistance to cuts from all quarters.

The STUC itself has unveiled research showing nearly half a million Scots – 17.5 per cent of people of working age – are either unemployed, under-employed or cast aside like garbage under the government title ‘economically inactive’.

That’s a waste of 500,000 lives; a dead end for young people starting out on life’s journey; and a colossal loss of potential production of socially useful goods and services. Put another way, that’s capitalism.

Worse to come

International capitalist institutions like the OECD forecast even worse to come; that the UK’s economy is grinding to a halt, with less than one per cent growth this year, some of them predicting ten years of austerity. Incredibly, in the same breath they urge Cameron and Clegg’s Coalition to ‘carry on cutting’ – despite the growing evidence that every wage cut reduces spending power and adds to the dole queues…which reduces tax revenue, which the Twin Tories use to ‘justify’ more cuts…

Meantime bankers and bosses raised their bonuses by 70 per cent in recent years, whilst making wages as a share of national wealth their lowest in 50 years.

Human cost

Facts and figures only hint at the human toll of cuts to jobs, services, benefits, pay and pensions.

Quarriers workers are being told to cut their wages by up to 23 per cent, £400-500 a month, plus cuts to pensions, sick pay and maternity pay. The bosses at one of Scotland’s biggest social charities fail to spot the bitter irony: Quarriers was founded to help vulnerable kids and adults in 1871, but in 2011 they are forcing dedicated, decent workers to sell their cars, leave their homes, and make their kids suffer.

No wonder these UNISON members have been driven to take strike action, demanding proper funding and defence of their wages, braving the torrential rain to win an outpouring of public support for their stance.

As one of the Ardrossan pickets told SSP members, “They said pay rises would only be given when they made a profit, but Quarriers is a not-for-profit charity organisation.”

Another added, “If Quarriers get away with this, I won’t be able to afford to pay my mortgage. What am I supposed to do then? This is a charity that looks after children, but their plans would put my children out of their home.”

Workers and communities rebel

Communities are in revolt, and workers squaring up for a fight-back, after years of setbacks.

The families of disabled adults are leading the struggle against closure of Glasgow’s Accord Centre by Labour city councillors – who plan to demolish it, renege on their pledge to replace it, and use the ground for a bus park for the 11-day Commonwealth Games.

The same Labour politicians have the breath-taking cheek to join the local community, also in Glasgow’s east end, against closure of Lightburn hospital – which the Labour council voted in favour of closing when it was initially mooted! The lesson: gather 14,000 signatures on the petition against closure, mount demos, and even axe-wielding politicians can be ‘persuaded’ to ‘side’ with you!

March, occupy, strike

We need more than one string to our bow in resisting the cuts.

Local, community-led demos help highlight the atrocities faced by working class people, pressurising those with the power to decide – whether councillors, Health Boards or the Scottish government.

Direct action protests and occupations – like those staged by disabled workers when they occupied DWP buildings in anger at closure plans for Remploy factories – convey something of the rage felt by those at the receiving end of cuts by a class of callous, feral, upper-class hooligans.

But one of the most powerful weapons of all is united, widespread strike action against cuts.

St Andrews Day Showdown

For the past year, SSP members have campaigned in the unions for a one-day strike of the entire public sector. The PCS union led the fight for a coordinated November public sector strike at TUC conference, and pressure for this unity in action has been mounting from the membership on other union leaders.

Even the EIS leadership – who scandalously led members to accept £45m cuts just months ago – last week announced a strike ballot.

Scottish UNISON’s Local Government conference recently voted by 4:1 for a one-day strike on pensions.

Now, in a monumental breakthrough for the anti-cuts movement, TUC conference has voted for a united strike on 30 November – St Andrews Day – with at least ten unions balloting members for what would be the broadest strike action since the 1970s. Members in PCS, NUT, UCU, ATL, UNITE, UNISON, GMB, NASUWT, EIS, NIPSA will almost certainly be joined by FBU and Prospect. And the Prison Officers Association – banned from strike action by the last Labour government! – have pledged to strike in defiance of this outrageous anti-working class law.

Provided union activists, stewards and branches now launch an unprecedented campaign of persuasion in the workplaces, this could mean up to 3 million workers bombarding both Westminster and Holyrood with their colossal power against cuts. Because whilst this ‘day of action’ is on pensions, that is but the latest, most common thread to all the cuts, the vehicle to ventilate the fury of millions at the butchery of jobs, services and wages as well as pensions.

Build mass People First demo

The STUC’s People First demo on 1st October is the perfect means to tie these strands together. By uniting disparate community struggles into a mightier force, alongside trade unionists and students in revolt. By boosting the fighting morale of workers, helping persuade them to vote for a mighty strike of the entire public sector on St Andrews Day.

By putting tens of thousands on the streets as the smug, arrogant Tories hold their conference, we can also put the Scottish government on the spot, as they announce their Spending Review, expected to involve £2bn in cuts for the next two years.

The People First demo is more than an end in itself: it is a means to demand the funds to protect every job, service and source of income; to demand ‘No cuts – tax the rich’; to demand that Holyrood defies the Westminster Butchers, who have no mandate to rule and ruin Scotland.

Build the demo. Build the resistance. Build for a one-day public sector strike. Build a Scots rebellion that declares ‘people not profit’.