2022 Summer of Struggle – trade union movement takes fighting message to Westminster

Union Matters

“Saying enough is enough is just the start, we’re building a movement led by workers and communities,” our general secretary Dave Ward CWU told the thousands crammed into Parliament Square at the climax of Saturday’s 50,000-strong New Deal for Workers demonstration…

And what a huge success the day was, with an estimated 4,000 CWU members making up possibly the largest – and definitely the loudest and liveliest – of the many contingents from all of our UK trade unions at one of the most significant working-class protests for many years.

Branches from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England – north, south, east and west – turned out for the day, determined to make their voices heard and to take the opportunity to unite with all of our sisters and brothers across the UK trade union movement. With our marchers all wearing either special event T-shirts or hi-viz jackets, CWU pink was the top colour of the day – but the most popular item was the new bucket hat, bringing 1990s style into the roaring 2020s!

Our iconic ‘Hopemobile’ made its long-awaited reappearance too, carrying much-needed water, a ridealong for anyone getting tired, and a music playlist for everyone – once again the CWU winning the battle of the sound systems!

With our friends in the RMT rail union starting national strike action tomorrow, our own Post Office workers having already held two days of walkouts, Openreach, BT and EE members balloting, a Royal Mail strike vote starting at the end of this month and other unions in local authorities, public services and other sectors moving into dispute as well, the London protest came at exactly the right time – just as 2022’s Summer of Struggle gets under way.

And Dave made this clear in his speech, saying that “this is a special moment” and that the march and rally represented “just the start” of what will become a huge nationwide movement for change – a movement that “will be led by workers and communities, not by politicians.”

Our general secretary pledged the CWU’s “100 per cent solidarity to all workers in this country” praising all of the UK’s frontline workers for their exceptional efforts and making clear that all our nation’s workers deserve a cost-of-living pay rise. He also made a strong condemnation of the recent Government attacks on the RMT and their hard-working members and promised the full backing of the CWU, while also updating the rally on the latest situation regarding our own ongoing disputes.

“We’re building a movement in which everybody counts. We’re fighting for a New Deal for Workers and for a new social settlement in the UK,” he continued, prompting a rousing roar of ‘Yes!’ when he asked the Parliament Square crowd: “Are you up for the fight?”

Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary won loud and enthusiastic cheers and applause too, speaking just 48 hours before the start of the biggest rail strike in many years. Some 40,000 rail workers are due to stop work tomorrow in their fight for a cost-of-living pay rise and in protection of their jobs and their current terms and conditions.

“We’re on strike in a class struggle and if your pay and conditions are being attacked, you’re in a class struggle too,” he said, adding that the current dispute on the UK’s railways represented “the fight of our lives.”

TUC leader Frances O’Grady told the rally that she was “very proud” at the enthusiasm and determination on show from everyone and, in response to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps’s statement that rail strikers could lose their jobs, she said: “You’re wrong Mr Schapps, you’ll be the one out of a job at the next election – and you can take the rest of the Tory Cabinet with you!”

Other trade union speakers included the general secretaries of Unite and Unison, education unions NEU, UCU and NASUWT, and shopworkers’ union Usdaw president Jane Jones, who said: “Workers deserve much better than this. We need a New Deal for Workers so that we can thrive, not just survive. We need action and we need it now!”

But as well as union leaders, we also heard from local reps and shop stewards involved in disputes at individual workplaces and smaller companies, including NHS workers, steelworkers, Uber drivers, care staff, cleaners and many others.

Dave Ward’s closing comments at the end of his speech summed up the day for the thousands who had come from all around the country, when he said: “If you mean it – and I’m certain you all do – then we’ll fight for it and we’ll bring everyone together and we’ll win.”