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Democrat - Editorial January-February 2014 (Number 139)

Who's on the side of
'hard working people'?

An attempt to bring about a wholesale assault on working conditions, wages and trade union rights is taking place. This is happening not only at local and national levels but within the EU and wider still at international level involving continents.

Transport for London announced in the Christmas period the closing of ticket offices on London Underground. The upshot would be that 750 Staff out of about 2,000 would be made redundant. Both TSSA and RMT unions have stated that safety on the network would be compromised as well as more jobs disappearing. Several times the London Mayor had stated that ticket offices would remain open. This is yet another volte face by Boris Johnson who is driven by vested interests and has no interest in working people.

Two one day strikes are planned in a joint operation by TSSA and RMT. Tfl have said they would use 1,000 volunteers in the spirit of the Olympics to keep the tube system going. The attempt to link Olympic volunteers to break a strike is a foul paradox that will not be lost on Londoners. Those who worked the London tube and bus system were an essential part of the successful London Olympics.

Amazon which is infamous for low wages and bad working conditions has eyes on the ticket offices for distribution of parcels. Boris and his staff have no doubt been in secret talks on a deal.

Almost a million young people remain unemployed. According to the Prince's Trust forty percent of these have faced symptoms of mental illness as a result of being out of work. One in three in long term unemployment has contemplated suicide. This is not a surprise as many young people feel they have little to live for. One aspect is the ConDem policy to raise the age of retirement which has reduced the number of available jobs. It robs older people of opportunities to fully enjoy retirement, at the same time as removing job opportunities for young people.

As we have warned for many years the free movement of labour within the EU has meant that immigrants have created a situation which permits employers to pay low wages, including below the scandalous minimum wage. This is being used to seriously undermine all wages and working conditions and is known aptly as the 'race to the bottom'.

As well as the conditions set up around us by the coalition government, the European Single Market is the background to the employment situation. The lowering of all wages by one method or another, including inflation, wage freezes and cuts is common across the EU.

The government claim that regulations and red tape are to be cut, emanating from Brussels and already on the statue book is simply to make life easier for employers. There is no hint that anti-trade union legislation will be rescinded to make life easier for those who work. The claim repeated by government ministers that they are on the side of 'hard working people' is just a mantra to kid and bamboozle us.

Free trade agreements including the US-EU, Canada-EU and other pacts are part of the world-wide thrust by transnational corporations to open up all markets for their benefit. These are being negotiated in secret by the EU Commission. These agreements will have profound and detrimental effects on all of us including the NHS and employment.

The answer is not to get depressed or bury heads in the sand but to understand not only class but national and international politics. A good start is to read our paper, the Democrat, and spread the word to others. The best protection remains membership of trade unions and participation in the labour movement and the adoption of appropriate policies.