Steve Turner, Unite the Union, who will speak at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity, delivered this speech on 9th September moving TUC Composite Motion 1 on Anti-Austerity Campaigning
Colleagues, three years into the most vicious and vindictive government in living memory, the war against workers, raised by Frances O’Grady in her speech this morning, goes on.
This is not the war that should be waged. A war on poverty, helplessness, unemployment, ill health, despair,fear and insecurity.
It is not a war on tax evasion, obscene rents and energy profits, low pay or zero hours contracts.
No, this is a war on all that we hold dear, all that previous generations fought so hard to win. A war on ordinary men and women, our families and our communities. Of course the Tories say that the economy’s ‘showing signs of recovery’, that we’re ‘all in it together’. Together my arse!
Tell that to the five million on waiting lists for social housing, or the two and a half million without a job.
Tell that to the million young people with no stake in society, or the 400,000 using foodbanks every week, to the millions using loan sharks and tell that to the millions of workers’ whose living standards continue to fall in what is the longest period since 1870s.
Comrades, we’re the seventh richest nation on our planet and if we’ve got the money to propose war on Syria then we’ve got money to wage war on foodbanks, to put our people back to work, our children into school and university – not debt and despair – and to provide dignity for our elderly.
Comrades, it’s up to us.
It’s up to us – to not just fightback industrially – but to build a mass movement, building a social consensus, an alliance or coalition for change amongst organised and unorganised workers. Including campaign groups, the Peoples’ Assembly, churches, charities, direct action and grass roots organisations.
This is not about the right to strike, it’s about organisation, confidence and leadership. It’s about ideas, values and above all hope People need hope for a better future and confidence in our values and ideas for change.
Without hope we sing into despair, resigned to the narrative that says ‘there is no alternative’.
Turning inwards and looking to our neighbours for someone to blame, hooked into the obscene language of the shirker and scrounger, of the deserving and undeserving poor.
We must reject the language of division.
Colleagues this is our challenge. It rests on our shoulders, to build the coalition, organise the action, inspire a generation. The composite motion commits us to fighting back – industrially where possible – but more than that – it commits us to organise a mass mobilisation. Supporting the fantastic work of the Peoples’ Assembly and the national protest on 5th November. Supporting a day of peaceful civil disobedience – of local action in towns and cities across our nation.
The composite calls for political education and to step up our campaign for an alternative to austerity.
An alternative to based on tax justice, investment, job creation, public ownership and the redistribution of wealth.
It calls for action, including a national march against poverty and co-ordinated industrial action.
Colleagues, we’ve never been given anything – we’ve had to fight and fight hard for what we now take for granted at our peril. All that we hold dear – is under threat and it’s on our watch.
Colleagues, we have to stand up. We have a responsibility to provide hope and inspiration in place of fear and despair to stand up for our young, our elderly, our sick and disabled – for our welfare state.
Stand up for all those who can’t stand up for themselves. Stand up for all those who can’t stand up for themselves, stand up for everything that’s decent in our society.
Stand up and fight back!