This Christmas may go down in living memory as one of the most difficult in decades. Many are worrying about energy bills whilst huge numbers of workers will be on strike as we fast approach Christmas day 2022. It is my view that while the strikes will cause great inconvenience and worry, they are regretfully totally necessary. The workers of this country are striking for a very basic reason – the right to dignity, a fair wage and decent conditions. At the moment this is been denied by the government. Does this mean we are in a class war?
Why is the richest politician in the UK holding out for fear that a public sector worker will spark inflation if they are paid a fair wage? For the avoidance of any doubt, a pay raise for a nurse, an ambulance driver or a 999-phone operator will not be the cause of inflation.
It may be below the belt to label the Prime Minister as incredibly rich and to suggest that his vast wealth and opulence is clouding his judgement, supported by his elitist group of cabinet ministers. However, it’s true. The Prime Minister has accused unions as unleashing a “class war”, but in truth he is the real culprit.
The leader of the RMT
I was fortunate to sit beside Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT rail union on a train journey from Birmingham to London in early October We had both been at a demonstration outside the Tory party conference It was perhaps the most memorable and interesting train journey I have ever taken.
Mike Lynch has been accused of starting a class war. However, if he is guilty then the leader of the Royal College of Nursing is also guilty as is every other union boss in the country. My long chat with Mick Lynch told me just how passionate and committed he is to stand up for his union members and just how right he was to do so. He is hated by the right-wing media and the government because of his ability to demolish arguments put forward by media interviewers or government ministers. I suspect he is feared and loathed as he has given inspiration to millions of workers all around the country.
We all want the rail strikes over as soon as possible, but at the heart of the dispute are jobs, conditions and decent pay and it’s his job to stand up for his workers. The government has still not allowed a settlement to be reached.
Royal College of Nursing
As Mick Lynch is demonised by the media it’s a wonder Pat Cullen, the head of the nursing union has not been demonised as well. The Health Secretary has been accused of blatant sexism as he is refusing to meet and negotiate with her union the RCN. Cullen said:
“I’m a woman negotiating for a 90% female profession that is trying to operate with a government that’s particularly macho and tends to operate with a bullyboy tactic.”
Phoning for an ambulance
So as these two trade unions the RMT and RCN are being slated and briefed against by the government, desperate to hold the line and not negotiate, let’s look at ambulance workers and the 999 operators. When you call 999 you are asked if the patient is breathing as the first question. They respond as soon as they can but it’s a public service that is struggling in every corner of the country and when you call there can be a very long wait for an ambulance. After 12 years of a Tory government the waiting times are going up not down.
There is a common thread every time a health worker is interviewed on the subject of waiting times. The answer is that it’s about resources. There is a vast shortage of nurses. There are a number of reasons for this. One principle reason is that nurses are worked to the bone and underpaid. Brexit has also been a major factor =? as so many EU staff are leaving the profession and returning to their home countries . To overcome the Brexit effect, the NHS is recruiting non-EU nurses often from countries where they are desperately needed and where pay is so much less than here in the UK. But despite their best efforts, many are still leaving the profession every month and the shortages are getting more severe.
The online Cambridge English Dictionary defines class war as:
“conflict (= arguing or fighting) between people of different economic and social classes, that may involve violence,”
Whilst this definition may have has been partially met, there has not been violence, and I hope that this remains. What we do see is a government at odds with ordinary working people, and at least to some extent a government in fear of a Labour victory in the next election, causing some of the very rich to inject a cash flow into the Tory Party.
Are we actually living in a democracy? We have a government where money means power and influence, it’s fascism in all but name so while many are struggling, rest assured that the Prime Minister and his loyal MPs are comfortably tucked up in in their own world of opulence.
Remember when Rishi Sunak wanted to change the rules so levelling up funds could be diverted to more wealthy and worthy towns like Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent. He is for the rich only and from what we see and deduce has no interest in deprived local communities across Wales, the North West and the North East who desperately need these funds . This is not just completely unacceptable, it could be described as immoral or deceitful.
What can we do?
There is little we can do today but there is so much we can do tomorrow. Join a trade union, become involved in your local community, become politically aware and get involved where you can.
There is so much at stake, it’s all our futures – don’t give up but stand up!
Update : Steve Barclay met with the health unions today, Tuesday 20 December. The leader of Unite is quoted as saying it was “entirely pointless” and “insulting” because the minister refused to discuss pay.