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Union left groups are here to co-ordinate action

There are now left groups in the NEU, PCS, RMT, Unison and Unite – in this time of heightened struggle, we urge all members to reach out to them so that we can mobilise for united action across the union movement, writes UNION LEFT

TUC CONGRESS takes place during the biggest wave of strikes in over 30 years. Since 2008, real wages have fallen, public services have been cut, poverty and foodbank usage have grown.

There are now more foodbanks in this country than jobcentres — a damning indictment of this rotten Tory government.   

Rising prices are cutting the living standards of all workers, especially the lowest paid, forcing many into a position where they can’t afford to heat their homes or feed themselves and their families. We face the threat of recession and mass unemployment.

But we are seeing a fightback on a number of fronts — more and more workers are moving to take action.

Bus workers, rail workers, refuse workers, dock workers, postal workers, BT workers, even barristers, are all striking to get pay rises in line with inflation.

There are now ballots for action looming in the Civil Service, in education, the health service and in local government.

We have to recognise that there has been a period of setbacks where there have been groups of workers fighting isolated struggles, left to fight alone, where the Tories have been able to push ahead with their cuts and privatisation agenda in pursuit of profit at the expense of the working class, service users and the most vulnerable.   

But the trade union movement, when co-ordinated and united, still has enormous strength. It is up to us to discuss how we can best build that united, co-ordinated struggle.   

That is why the left groups in five unions — NEU Left, PCS Left Unity, Broad Left for RMT members, Time for Real Change in Unison and Unite United Left — are working together to build co-ordination and solidarity.

These groups are made up of reps, activists and campaigners within their respective unions and represent a wide range of political views within the left who as socialists believe, that the best way to build effective campaigns is to organise and work together.   

Most workers are not in a trade union and they are the ones suffering most from rising prices, insecure employment, bad bosses.

Data from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2021, only 23 per cent of British employees were trade union members, only 26 per cent of employees had collective bargaining over pay and in nearly half of all workplaces there was no trade union presence at all.

We fully recognise the scale of the challenge facing all of us.   

The marches, demonstrations and lobbying of politicians co-ordinated by the TUC are all important and necessary — but they are not enough.

It is strong, co-ordinated action that will really have an impact. It is this which gives us the power to protect workers in the workplace, have a voice in society and push back this rotten government on its plans for working people and those that rely on public services.

To borrow something that Unite leader Sharon Graham wrote: “As trade unions, our priority must be to go back to the workplaces and build our power. Building the power to take action, again and again. That is the real fighting strategy our movement needs.”   

And the trade union movement needs to build not just in workplaces, but in our communities, in our towns and cities. The biggest united, co-ordinated fightback that we can muster.   

We need to build together, we need to work together, we need to fight together. The scale of the crisis means that there is no place for sectarianism in our movement.

This is why we need left organisations within the trade union movement, and for those organisations to engage and join up wherever possible.

So we appeal to everyone, to work with us in building the left in our movement and in your unions. Our five union lefts — in NEU, PCS, RMT, Unison and Unite — would be happy to speak to you about organising and building the left across the movement.

To find out more, leave your details at bit.ly/UnionLeft.
 
Fran Heathcote, PCS Left Unity organiser; Andrea Egan, Unison Time for Change; Alex Gordon, Broad Left for RMT; Lucy Coleman, chair of NEU Left; Dave Allen, secretary of Unite United Left.

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