NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney speaks to the protest in Birmingham

Do Everything You Can, the Moment is Now

by Colleen Johnson, NEU Left Disabled member

In the afternoon sunshine last weekend, huge crowds gathered in Birmingham City Centre at an event organised by The Peoples’ Assembly to mark the start of the Tory party conference. Workers listened to a variety of speakers from the trade unions, Disabled people against the cuts and Black lives matter and all had a similar message…there is a class struggle going on, that we must win.

Birmingham NEU’s Kate Taylor, who is convenor of the city’s People’s Assembly, chaired the rally.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, talked about solidarity with working people, their families and class. He highlighted rail workers, postal workers, lecturers, barristers, nurses, midwives, teachers and support staff all set together in struggle for better pay and public sector funding. He mentioned those who were campaigning for social change particularly those campaigning for free school meals. He highlighted the imminent social crisis where some would go hungry and others cold.

In the worst-case scenario individuals would struggle with both staying warm and eating and lives would be lost (a point also made by the speaker from DPAC) Kevin noted that many simply wouldn’t be able to make ends meet and so now was the time to act. ‘They blame everything totally on covid and the situation in the Ukraine’, he remarked ‘but their so- called mini budget shows the truth. Pay has been held down since 2010 and this is totally unacceptable’.

Mick Lynch general secretary of the RMT talked about a change coming that you could feel. He spoke about the last six months full of decadence and corruption by the ruling class. He highlighted the shameful mini budget – a profound, bold and radical statement on behalf of their class and their interests. He reminded listeners that workers create wealth whilst the rich merely store and consume it.

He focussed upon the need to preserve schools, hospitals, water services, energy, bus and rail services, the education system and provision for both disabled people and elderly people by public ownership if necessary. He highlighted the process of subsidising profit and propping up the bond markets when he was sure that people would much rather subsidise health or social care.

He spoke of a class struggle that we had to win as next year would be too late as our rights of assembly/protest would be lost and our human rights diminished. He stated we needed to defeat the government and win the war of ideas. He added any new government must ‘deliver for our people’. He concluded by saying people needed to join up across workplaces and places of worship and that everyone including artists, writers and musicians had a part to play.

Sheffield protest on Saturday

Day of rage against the Tories

by Emma Davies, Sheffield

Saturday 1 October saw thousands of people join demos, rallies and picket lines across the country in a fightback against the cost of living crisis and in support of the Royal Mail and Rail Workers’ strikes. 

This marked the first day of coordinated action between the CWU (the Royal Mail union) and ASLEF and RMT (Rail workers’ unions). 170,000 workers were on strike, bringing the postal service and the rail network to a halt. 

This is a step forward in the resistance to the Tories and their agenda of cutting taxes for the rich, will attacking workers’ pay and conditions. 

The demos and rallies were called for by the Enough is Enough campaign, and were supported by union and campaign groups across the country. The atmosphere on the protests was one of anger and defiance at the Tory government. 

The demand for united action, through strikes and protests was repeated in the slogans on placards and in the speeches. Groups from across the left joined – from Extinction Rebellion,  Black Lives Matter, Stand Up to Racism, and more – making the link between the fight against the cost of living crisis, with the fight to save planet and against racism and injustice.  

The coordinated strikes and protests on 1 October need to be the launch pad for more action. As the Tories turn up their attacks on workers, we need to ramp up the resistance. 

Every NEU Left member should involve themselves in the strikes, join the picket lines and protests, and use the momentum from these struggles to build the biggest possible turn out  in our workplaces and districts our own NEU ballots. 

In Sheffield where I work around 1500 people joined the Enough is Enough rally called for by the TUC. The mood was vibrant and angry. Groups from across the movement joined from Black Lives Matter, People’s Assembly and climate activists. 

The RMT and ASLEF unions made speeches, calling for more united action. Robyn Orfitelli from the UCU union spoke out – “Stand together to take down these dragons. There is power in solidarity, there is hope in solidarity and we will change in solidarity.”

See picture round up below

Editorial comment

Build ballots towards pay fight

The response to the NEU’s internal pay ballots has been huge- and shows a real mood for a fight on pay and funding.

All the ballots – teachers’, support staff, sixthform colleges- are on course to beat the kinds of thresholds set by Tory anti-union laws- and that should give the go ahead for full strike ballots.

No wonder people are angry. Truss and Kwarteng are giving handouts to the super rich and big business, while inflation hammers living standards for most people. Now they are threatening more austerity and cuts while even their beloved markets give a huge thumbs down to their economic plans.

Now we have to get ready for a series of full strike ballots- of teachers, of support staff and of sixth form college teachers.

Those will be much harder work than the internal ballots- as they have to be postal to people’s home addresses and we won’t get updates on how many people have voted.

That means we have to redouble efforts in every area to organise for the ballot- planning reps briefings, school meetings, checklists to tick people off when they have voted.

It means fine tuning the kind of local targeted strategy that has worked so well in the indicative ballets to fight for maximum turn out.

Other workers are fighting back too- as Saturday’s powerful rail and postal strike showed, along with the solidarity rallies across the country. Dockers at Liverpool and Felixstowe were also out- at ports handling two thirds of Britain’s container traffic. In all some 175,000 workers were on strike on Saturday.

More strikes are planned too- with the CWU announcing a whole raft of strikes over the coming weeks.

And strikes can get results  – as the 11 percent pay deal won by 2,000 by Arriva bus workers in north London last week after being ready to go on all out strike from this week shows.

If the postal strikes are still on as we move towards the start of our NEU strike ballots – which have to be by post under the laws-we will have to assess timings and ballot deadlines in the light of that.

But we have the momentum now and should press ahead as quickly as possible to get the strikes that are the only way we will win – to defend both our living standards, and our schools and students’ education.

If you have a story or opinion piece you’d like us to run, or an idea for something we should run, mail us at [email protected]

Calais Solidarity

NEU members in Calais

by Amy Fletcher, Tower Hamlets

Over 20 NEU volunteers, many of whom are NEU Left members, spent last weekend volunteering with Care 4 Calais in northern France, bringing essential solidarity to refugee men, women and children. 

We distributed fleeces, which are vital as the days shorten and darken, and temperatures drop, as well as organising much-needed food packages and bringing charging points, tea, coffee and biscuits, barber equipment and games. 

The rain on Saturday morning was torrential, yet many of the men that we met only wore flip flops, with many wearing only t-shirts or thin jumpers. 

Disgracefully the French riot police continue to clear any unattended tents every 48 hours: a vicious act which forces refugees to be on constant guard for fear of losing what keeps them alive. It is a dehumanising and violent act of intimidation. 

If you want to help with future visits contact:

A wave of protest and solidarity

Paddington, London
Kings Cross, London
Tower Hamlets, London
Hackney, London
Haringey, London

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