The cost of living crisis has hit millions of people hard, with latest reports indicating that 8 million in the UK are struggling to pay their bills, and food prices reaching the highest they’ve been in 40 years. Amid this dire economic climate, the experiences of sex workers have been largely overlooked – but a new campaign aims to change that.
We are seeing an increase in strike action in the UK, which is a good thing, but we don’t know much about the experiences and views of workers who are involved in them. We rely on the official statements of the trade union press officers, which doesn’t help us to answer the main questions when it comes to strikes: are the strikes actually effective, do they hurt the bosses? Do workers overcome divisions between different contracts, departments, professional groups or sectors? Do workers themselves learn how to conduct their own struggles and decide about form and goals?
The following interview with a comrade who works at Transport for London is a small step towards a more general debate between striking workers. We have to create independent forums to lead the debate, independent from political parties or trade union headquarters who have their separate interests when it comes to the strikes and mainly see them as recruitment grounds. If you feel the same, get in touch. If you want to talk about your strike experiences, get in touch. You can read a previous interview with the comrade about the situation during the Covid pandemic here.For a good general overview of the current crisis in global transport, check this out.
*** The current rail strikes
The recent strikes have been declared the biggest rail dispute in a generation, with 50,000 workers from rail services to track maintenance to Transport for London. Was there a different quality to that strike, for example, was there more communication between workers from the different rail sectors?
There are moments when a particular group of workers can become the political focus for the wider working class. They can act as a pole of attraction, they can become a conduit for a wider program and new forms of struggle.
The current wave of strikes in Britain shows that significant sections of the working class feel both the need and ability to defend their own interests. It has come at a point in the deepening crisis where the mainstream political establishment is unable to present meaningful state-driven solutions.
In desperation, the controlling Tory party has ditched Johnson and created several months of vacuum where they don’t even pretend to generate plans to ease hardships. That convulsion in the governing party is not unique to Britain. Unable to respond to crisis and pacify the population, governments elsewhere in Western Europe have also dissolved. In France, Macron’s party have lost control of the National Assembly and, in Italy, Draghi’s coalition government has collapsed.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the British Labour Party has been intent on showing themselves as the next Government to prop up the capitalist status quo in Britain. They are so keen to prove that point that, week in, week out, they have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from struggling workers.
While the absence of a plan is lamented by the reformists, we think it opens up an opportunity to strengthen the chance for workers’ struggles to progress from singular defensive battles to a wider political program for the working class.
Wobblies from our branch have been supporting these pickets in Dorset and as far afield as Sussex. Here’s a picture from the one in Bognor on Monday.
A FW writes:
BT Open Reach were on strike today and are out at least twice this month. As a smaller part of the CWU they are beginning to feel a bit left out over Royal Mail’s dispute so if FWs could share a bit on Social Media to friends and Comrades it may help to get the message out a bit about their struggle.
As the Class War intensifies across our island, Dorset IWW members have supported rail and telecomm’s pickets in Bognor, Bournemouth, Dorchester, Poole, and Weymouth, alongside members of many other unions and none.
The RMT and CWU are striking for us all and will soon be joined by a broad section of the Working Class.
It is no longer a matter of which union you belong to or the specific industry in which you are exploited. We must stand by our Class, right or wrong and bring down this venal, corrupt regime that offers us nothing but destitution, war and environmental catastrophe.
Attitudes to the political/boss class are hardening, the failure of the Corbyn experiment at last signalled the death of possiblism, We really don’t have time to wait for a hypothetical social-democratic government, so let’s seize the moment and get on the streets!
“No saviour from on high deliver, no faith have we in prince nor peer. Our own strong arm the chains must shiver, chains of hatred, greed and fear”
Where a global crisis is once again followed by the threat of global war
Where inflation is attack on our wages world-wide, while also so-called left governments from Germany to Spain to the USA agree to spend billions extra on rearmament
Where the ruling class tries to deepen the division within our class, e.g. in form of deportations to Rwanda or other scapegoating actions
Where the introduction of automation and technology doesn’t lead to a better life for everyone, but an increase of unemployment and pressure on wages
We have to be ready to break the cage of the law by…
organising strikes in stronger sectors in solidarity with workers’ struggles in weaker sectors
resisting job cuts and company closures if necessary through occupations
fighting by all means necessary against overtime and work stress while others have trouble finding a job
squatting empty flats and houses in response to increasing homelessness
refusing that people of our class go hungry or cold if necessary by defying energy bills
physically opposing migration raids, deportations, evictions or arrests at picket-lines
We have to prepare ourselves for this. We have to stop acting like victims. The competition between trade unions and their fear to defy the law make them only a limited weapon in our struggle. Most organisations want to proclaim victories and therefore don’t allow us to learn from the strong and weak points of our strikes and struggles. We have to learn to speak for ourselves.
During the pandemic we have seen that workers in the so-called ‘essential sectors – transport, health, food – would well be able to run society in a better, more equal and less destructive way. We will have to take on this responsibility and wrest the means of production from the abyss of their system of profits and power.
Here in Bristol, like elsewhere, we have to find each other. Some of us work at Southmead hospital, others in local schools. We run a solidarity network in Avonmouth industrial and logistics area.
New disturbing evidence has emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced harsher rules designed to force more disabled people with significant mental distress to attend frequent face-to-face jobcentre meetings.
Last week, a work coach told Disability News Service (DNS) that she and her colleagues were being “bullied and harassed” into forcing claimants with significant mental distress into attending work-related meetings.
Many have been waiting months for a work capability assessment (WCA) but in the meantime are being forced to make regular trips to the jobcentre so work coaches can meet their targets for face-to-face appointments.
After the story was published last Thursday, DNS received an anonymous phone message – apparently from another work coach – who said the harsher new approach “was definitely happening”, although DNS has been unable to confirm that they work for DWP.
The Benefits and Work website has also reported hearing from someone who claimed to be a former DWP employee and who said that work coaches were being “named and shamed” by their bosses for not pushing enough claimants out of the support group* of employment and support allowance (ESA) and onto universal credit.