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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 May 2009

Thousands march for jobs in Birmingham

THOUSANDS OF workers marched through Birmingham last Saturday in protest against the decimation of industry and jobs. Officially unemployment in the UK has reached 2.2 million - the highest rate since 1991 - and is expected to exceed 3 million by 2010.

Kevin Parslow

Saturday's demo, called by the Unite trade union, could have been much bigger and more effective if the union had not taken a position of allowing the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and Digby Jones, former CBI director-general and ex-New Labour minister, to prominently sponsor the event.

Workers need socialist policies to fight back against the devastation of the recession. While Digby Jones may support the subsidising of workers' wages by the government when lay-offs and short-time working take place, he is no friend of the labour movement. Jones, a life peer, earlier this year had called for half of all civil service jobs to be axed.

Jones admitted on TV before the march that there was little he would normally agree with Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley about, but was supporting this one demand of subsidies.

But workers on the march were not just supporting short-time payments but were angry at the closures of factories and the devastation of manufacturing. They wanted to hear about how workers were fighting back but found little from the platform from workers who have actually had successful battles. Visteon workers did not have a representative on the platform and neither was victimised Unite convenor Rob Williams allowed to speak to the demo.

This was rectified somewhat by the National Shop Stewards Network meeting that took place after the march. Visteon convenors Kevin Nolan and Frank Jepson got rousing receptions for their members' example of how to fight back against ruthless bosses.

Rob Williams' appearance was cheered to the rafters. Rob explained he had been sacked for defending his members' interests when Linamar bosses wanted to introduce worse contracts and conditions. He could have kept his job if he had agreed with the bosses or taken a huge pay-off. He had refused both.

Urging support for his reinstatement, Rob called on the union to stop funding New Labour if he and others like him are allowed to be victimised and sacked at the drop of a hat.

The demonstration could have represented the beginning of a campaign to save jobs. But compared to the big demo a few years ago to try and save Rover in Birmingham, this was a lot smaller, yet workers are angry at feeling the effects of the recession they did not create. The responsibility to defend jobs and conditions rests on the shoulders of union leaders. That means launching a mass campaign to explain how socialist policies can defend jobs, instead of seeking to build alliances with bosses.

Workers on the march in Europe

THE BIRMINGHAM march coincided with the European Trade Union Confederation's call for demonstrations against unemployment behind the slogan 'Put People First'. In the eurozone, well over 20 million workers (8.9%) are out of work.

Around Europe, 150,000 marched in Madrid, 100,000 in Berlin, 50,000 in Brussels and 30,000 in Prague. The ETUC leaders meekly called for "stronger regulation of the financial markets" and to "aim for green growth and green jobs". Many demonstrators had a different message: 'We are not prepared to pay for the bosses' crisis!'

"Socialism or barbarism!" read a banner of the DAF car workers. "United against capitalism" read an Audi workers' placard. "Let's refuse to pay for the capitalist crisis," was the message carried by the Brussels public transport workers. The francophone socialist trade union campaign slogan: "Capitalism is bad for your health," was very popular.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 20 May 2009:

We need workers' MPs on a worker's wage


Socialist Party editorial

Swindling MPs are detached from reality


Socialist Party workplace news

Reinstate Rob Williams!

Thousands march for jobs in Birmingham

Visteon workers' victory march


No2EU

Why socialists oppose the EU

No2EU - yes to democracy


International socialist news and analysis

Sri Lanka: The guns fall silent but the tragedy continues

End Gaza blockade


Socialist Party feature

Tiananmen 1989: Seven weeks that shook the world


Youth fight for jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs fortnight of action

Enthusiastic reception for Youth Fight for jobs


Education

Don't close our schools!

Charlotte Turner

Kings College, London

Lewisham Bridge rooftop protest


Socialist Party news and analysis

BT say they're sorry

Welsh-speaking worker bullied by boss

PCS conference gathers

Construction workers walk out

Union organisation necessary to defend working conditions

Workplace news

Fast news


 

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Related links:

Birmingham:

triangleSE Birmingham Socialist Party: Role of the community and voluntary sector

triangleSE Birmingham Socialist Party: Sport and Coronavirus

triangleSE Birmingham Socialist Party: Was the Coronavirus pandemic inevitable?

triangleBirmingham Socialist Party: George Floyd's Life Mattered - Mass anti-racist movement erupts

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Labour:

triangleSocialism Today special issue: Lessons from the Corbyn experience

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