Don’t just campaign on the Labour doorstep – visit a picket line too

Shelly Asquith

This general election, head to the Labour doorstep – but visit a picket line along the way, too. As thousands of workers across sectors prepare to walk out in the coming weeks, the Labour Party must stand with them. Not just in name, but in our thousands-strong membership.

Members must avoid falling into the trap of thinking: ‘focus on getting Labour elected, and once that’s done we can legislate for things like a £10 wage and renationalising Royal Mail’. Strikes are not a sideshow to the general election, with demands that can wait until Jeremy Corbyn gets into Number 10. They are the real life examples of Labour’s policies – and workers, winning their demands, show the realism of Labour’s offer.

If McDonald’s announces a pay raise for its workers, the message to the wider public is that austerity is not inevitable. There is enough money in society for everyone to be paid a liveable wage. If college and university staff are victorious, we see a workforce strengthened as well as the basis of Labour’s argument for a National Education Service. Again, it builds support for Labour’s manifesto – not directly, but indirectly and by thousands of trade unionists demonstrating our own values of collectivism.

Labour activists and candidates should be visiting every strike in their area, offering support and solidarity. We cannot take for granted that every worker in dispute supports our party – we have to work for it. Local labour parties building relationships with local trade union branches should be in our DNA, and at election time, making our support completely clear not only strengthens the strikes but builds our own support, too. The coalitions coming together to support these strikes are the coalitions we need to win power. On the UCU pickets, there will be students who will benefit from our free education offer. On the library pickets, there will be parents concerned about school cuts.

The dominance of the general election in political reporting means these strikes won’t be getting the media attention they might otherwise have done. It’s in all of our interests to help turn that around. To paraphrase Corbyn’s launch speech: when Labour wins, the lecturers win, the posties win, the librarians win, the McStrikers win – we all win!

So – what’s happening?

TODAY, Tuesday 12th November. McDonald’s workers in the Bakers’ Union are striking to demand a £15 minimum wage, the option of guaranteed hours and an end to the ageist youth rates of pay. Branches where workers will walk out and picket are Balham, Catford, Crayford, Deptford, Downham and Wandsworth Town. There are also stalls and actions taking place across the country. Find one near you now.

Cleaners and maintenance workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are out on their fourth day of strike action as they demand union recognition. As well as visiting their picket, their union PCS is asking supporters to use this tool to send a letter to the Department.

The CWU is in court today fighting Royal Mail’s desperate attempt to prevent a strike with a huge democratic mandate. If the union wins in the courts, and Royal Mail continues to refuse the demands at the heart of this dispute, then keep an eye out for the announcement of strike dates from the union.

NEXT WEEK. Health visitors in Lincolnshire, who have taken several stoppages in recent months, will begin a month-long strike. Kicking off next week Monday 18th November and running through until after polling day, on 13th December. The strike by Unite members, of almost exclusively women, relates to a grading and pay issue.

Hospital workers at Frimley NHS will take two days of strike action next week (on 18th and 19th November) in protest of their contracts being moved to an outsourced company. The Unite, GMB and UNISON members say the move is being made to avoid paying taxes.

Heroic workers in Bromley and Bradford continue to fight cuts to museums and libraries. A four day strike in Bradford is planned between November 18th and 21st inclusively, and a further five-day stoppage is scheduled for December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th. They join the Bromley library heroes who have now been on indefinite strike for 22 weeks. You can donate to their strike fund, and attend fundraisers taking place tomorrow (November 13th) and next Friday (22nd).

More cleaners will strike next week, as members of IWGB at University College London take part in the largest strike of outsourced workers in education history. 300 of them will walk out on November 19th – you can donate to their strike fund here.

Education workers in UCU are taking eight days of strike action starting from Monday 25th November. Their action centres on an ongoing battle over pensions as well as pay and conditions. In total, strikes will take place across 60 institutions, and you can find a list here.

Sixth form college staff in the NEU will take their third day of strike action next Wednesday 20th November. The teachers’ and support staff’s dispute is over funding for jobs and pay in a sector that has suffered 16% cuts. You can find a list of colleges where strikes are taking place here.

They join staff at Salford City College who have already been out fighting for a nationally agreed pay increase. They are joined today by young Labour members on the picket line, and are back out tomorrow, on November 19th, 20th and 21st.

Last but not least, the RMT union has called a 24-hour strike on Virgin West Coast trains over the victimisation of a member, due to take place on Wednesday 19th November.

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