This morning, nearly 100 trade unionists joined the National Shop Stewards’ Network lobby outside the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Headquarters, Congress House. This was organised to build support for a 24-hour general strike and put pressure on the TUC’s general council, meeting inside, to call one. Back in September, TUC congress overwhelmingly backed a motion mandating the leadership to look into the practicalities of organising general strike action across the private and public sectors. Today’s protest, attended by workplace reps, leading trade unionists and youth and student activists, demanded the TUC turn that resolution into action.
The lobby was addressed by Glenn Kelly, victimised trade union activist and Bromley Council Staff Side Rep, who said “the fight-back isn’t being held back by the anti-trade union laws, but by the cowardice of the trade union leaders”. He pointed out that simply waiting for a Labour government to come in and reverse cuts isn’t an option – especially since most Labour councillors are now gleefully implementing the cuts handed down by the ConDem coalition. Nancy Taaffe, a librarian made redundant because of cuts, said the fight isn’t just about the ‘here and now’; we’re fighting for the jobs and services of future generations.
Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs and Education (YFJE) National Organiser, spoke about the grim future being mapped out for young people by the government. He pointed out that it was the duty of the trade union leadership to fight, not just for working people, but for those being shut out of education and the million young people on the dole. He said that if the TUC leadership were not prepared to give the people a lead then they “should step aside and let those people that are prepared to fight”. The lobby was wrapped up by Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, who led the crowd in chants of “TUC hear us say, general strike, name the day!”.
The government has declared war on ordinary people with a brutal onslaught of cuts to our jobs and services. We cannot respond with the white flag of surrender. Instead we must use the most powerful weapon in our arsenal: a general strike. This would win the support of all those young people struggling against attacks on our rights and living standards. This would be the first step on the way to building the kind of mass movement we need to roll back the tide of austerity. YFJE will work alongside trade unionists to campaign for the TUC to make its words a reality.