Please Support “Britain Needs A Pay Rise,” the TUC March and Rally in London on Saturday, October 18

16.10.14

On Saturday, I’ll be joining — hopefully — tens of thousands of people (at least) for “Britain Needs a Payrise,” a march and rally in central London organised by the TUC (Trades Union Congress). Campaigners are meeting on the Embankment  at 11am and marching through the West End to Hyde Park, where there will be a rally (see the route map here). The Facebook page is here, where you can join the event, and you can also pledge your support on the website. There is also a Twitter page here.

As the TUC states, in its message about the protest, “Join us for a march and rally in London on 18 October 2014, to help call for an economic recovery that works for all Britons, not just those right at the top.”

The following are three very good reasons given by the TUC for joining the march and rally:

1. Poverty Pay

One in five people earn less than the living wage. For the first time more people in work are below the poverty line than those out of work.

The spread of zero-hours contracts, agency working and bogus self-employment is trapping many below the poverty line.

2. The Cost of Living Crisis

We are told that the economy is now recovering and that Britain’s costs of living crisis is over. But whose recovery is this? Ordinary people are £40 a week worse off in real-terms than they were five years ago.

And if bankers hadn’t crashed the economy and wages growth had stayed on track then workers on average would have £100 more in their pay packets every week.

3. Rising Inequality

Of course it’s not tough for everybody. In 1998 top chief executives earned 45 times the average wage — enough for anyone I’d say.

But now they earn 185 times as much. That means they have earned what most people earn over 12 months in just a day and a half.

One key driver of the economic crash was growing pay inequality. Long before our banks went bust people’s wages had stopped growing.

I’m extremely glad to see the TUC putting together a major protest, as it is exactly two years since the last major TUC-organised protest, “A Future That Works,” which I photographed (see here and here for my photo sets on Flickr). Prior to that, there was the “March for the Alternative,” in March 2011, which I wrote about from St. Thomas’s Hospital, in an article entitled, “On the Anti-Cuts Protest in London, 500,000 Say No to the Coalition Government’s Arrogant, Ideological Butchery of the British State.”

I must admit to being extremely disappointed that the unions have not organised massive anti-austerity protests every six months against the butchers of the Tory-led coalition government, who continue with their efforts to destroy almost every aspect of the British state, privatising almost everything that was not privatised by Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and to hand it all over to unaccountable profiteers — with the exception of their own jobs, and their lavish expenses, and, presumably, parts of the judiciary, the military and the intelligence services.

The unions are still the biggest bloc by far of UK workers — with around 6.5 million members — and I do think they should have more rigorously opposed the government, not just for their members, but for everyone in the UK except the rich and the super-rich, who are the only beneficiaries of Tory policies.

The timing of Saturday’s protest, however, could not be better. On Tuesday, Credit Suisse published its annual global wealth report, which noted that “Britain is the only country in the G7 group of leading economies where inequality has increased this century, as the Guardian explained, adding, “The amount of the country’s wealth controlled by the richest 10% increased to 54.1% this year, up from 51.5% in 2000.”

So over half the country’s wealth is in the hands of the top 10%, and yet one of the top 10%, the welfare minister Lord Freud, has just been caught out saying that some disabled people should be paid less than the minimum  wage — £2 an hour were his exact words — as if a) the minimum wage is optional (it isn’t), b) it’s possible to live on £80 for a 40-hour week (it obviously isn’t), and c) disabled people are demonstrably worth less than those without disabilities (they aren’t). If you haven’t already done so, please sign the 38 Degrees petition calling for Lord Freud to be sacked (but you’ll need a UK postcode).

The Credit Suisse wealth report also stated, as the Guardian described it:

The increase in inequality has coincided with a boom in the number of rich and super-rich people in Britain. There are now 44 dollar billionaires in Britain, compared with eight at the start of the century, while the number of people whose net worth is at least $50m (£31m) almost quadrupled to 4,660.

As the rich have got richer, low and middle-income households have been squeezed by falling real incomes caused by years of rising household bills and lack of wage increases.

The authors also “warned that rising inequality could indicate a recession was on the way, with the global wealth-to-income ratio hitting a peak,” as the Guardian put it, adding, “The ratio is now at a recent record high level of 6.5 (the average wealth is 6.5 x income), matched previously only during the Great Depression. This is a worrying signal given that abnormally high wealth-income ratios have always signalled recession in the past.”

Does that mean a crash is coming? It seems unlikely, because those in power have rigged the economy so that, with interest rates at almost zero, the only arena for investment is housing. But that is a bubble, a monstrous bubble in which prices in London and the south east have now exceeded the vertiginous heights they reached in 2007, and with more and more people being priced out of house ownership, paying more and more of their earnings in rent, or even being priced out of London altogether, it would be difficult not to conclude that some sort of crash is not only necessary, to stop the endlessly increasing inequality that is making life a misery for so many people, but also inevitable, the economic version of the tipping point that triggers an avalanche.

Saturday’s protest is an opportunity for people to show, in significant numbers, how dissatisfied they are with the raging inequalities of Tory Britain, and I hope that, if you’re in London or anywhere near you’ll be able to make it along.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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20 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Steve Bubble wrote:

    Poor Doors Rich Doors Anarchist Bookfair October Revolution TUC March Saturday Night Special! 6-7pm Saturday 18th October!
    https://www.facebook.com/events/351887178319277/?ref=22

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for that, Steve.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Bubble wrote:

    plus a ukuncut action
    Join the UK Uncut bloc on the TUC No More Austerity demo
    https://www.facebook.com/events/447673495374089/

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    TUC approves of Workfare? Yes or no, please!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    Before I march on Saturday. Perhaps STUC does not. Do you know, Andy?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    How reduced is the left to be marching for a pay rise when unemployed people are forced to work for their ‘benefits’ or be forced into destitution – totally accepted by the TUC. If the STUC takes the same stance, they do not represent the working class either! Or maybe the unemployed are now the underclass, lucky to have food banks if they pass all the humiliating tests to qualify? I won’t be marching if that’s the case.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    And I am a socialist and proud of it.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    I had missed the reports, Eleanor. From what I’ve just read, the TUC doesn’t seem to support workfare as such, but apprenticeships, which, nevertheless, are unpaid. I don’t agree with that stance, but I think it’s slightly better in theory than workfare, as it is intended to lead to paid work, whereas workfare isn’t. Johnny Void on it here: https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/take-action-challenge-the-tucs-support-for-workfare-payrise4britain-must-mean-wages-for-everyone/

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Steve Bubble wrote:

    Say no to workfare: a TUC Charter on work experience
    http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/labour-market/say-no-workfare

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Steve, for the UK Uncut and TUC links.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    Last I read, Andy, the TUC supports workfare. Workfare IS supposed to lead to paid work and it does in 2% of cases. No unpaid work is acceptable. No one should work, be forced to work, for less than the minimum wage. The words are MINIMUM WAGE. Never mind that it’s pitiful! How can the left in England think this is ok for anyone? The left is dead down there. So many things going on that are so important? Keir Hardie and Nye Bevan must be birling in their graves.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    I think we need to challenge the TUC on this, Eleanor. I agree that unpaid work is unacceptable, but sadly it’s a plague that almost everyone accepts – volunteers and unpaid interns everywhere you look, working for charities, for human rights organisations, you name it. I can’t not march on Saturday, and damn six and half million union members and leave the Tories unchallenged yet again. I’ll look into it further, Eleanor, and as I say, I think what’s really needed is for a direct challenge to the TUC.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    boycottworkfare.org tells a different story. No organisation that claims to represent the working class can get away with condoning this blatant example of class war. That’s what it is. Stuff only in Thatcher’s dreams they are getting away with. They are making people work for nothing to take jobs away from either themselves or others who should be paid at least the pitiful minimum wage so it will go on until everybody will just be working for nothing and if they sneeze the wrong way they will be sanctioned and not even get their pitiful benefits and some other claimant will take their place. Logical conclusion.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    This is what Boycott Workfare says, Eleanor, and I agree, it’s impossible to condone:

    On 1 August 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16-23 year olds and “show support” for the businesses that benefit from the unpaid labour on this scheme.

    Traineeships involve training and “work placements” for up to six months – all unpaid. The TUC’s Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak hails Traineeships as “an important first step towards the world of work”. But in giving a green light to a new layer of unpaid work in the economy, the TUC is in fact helping to shrink opportunities for young people, undermine the going rate, and replace paid work with workfare.

    I still say that what people need to do is challenge the TUC. Contacts via Twitter are provided for senior TUC people: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3782

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    And replace paid work with workfare. In a nutshell. Sorry but the TUC and the Labour Party need to be replaced. It will come. Meanwhile I’ll save my breath to cool my porridge. You can’t shame the devil, Andy – aka those comfortably in the pockets of the Establishment!

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    And one of those to whom you refer seems to be Paul Nowak, the assistant general secretary of the TUC, Eleanor. Anyone who wants to can contact him here. Let him know what you think of his stance on unpaid work: pnowak@tuc.org.uk

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    And I have this feeling he will care, Andy, what I have to say but I will. Sleep well and thanks. You are my kind of people.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Eleanor. A good night to you too.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Eleanor Boyd wrote:

    Well I am glad I went! There were some great speakers including Owen Jones. I joined the RMT marchers from Glasgow Green to George Square.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Glad to hear it, Eleanor. There were 90,000 people in London, people from all over the country, and a reassuring feeling of solidarity. My photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/sets/72157648781947636/

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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