Unite & organise a mass, coordinated fightback on the cost of living!

Socialist Party activists today took part in the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s Cost of Living demonstration at Stormont. Below is the text of the leaflet we gave out at this event, arguing for a mass movement prepared to challenge the Stormont establishment.

Tories & Stormont establishment have failed workers

The latest price hikes put estimated average annual household electricity costs up to £944. The average yearly bill in 2019 amounted to £590. Food banks are reporting people are refusing chilled foods because they cannot afford to run a fridge. Home heating, petrol and diesel costs have also skyrocketed. And there is no end in sight. The Utility Regulator’s Chief Executive has suggested high energy costs will remain for at least the next six years. The regulator has only twice in the last five years stopped extortionate energy cost hikes. Of course, wages haven’t kept up. Inflation is now between 9% and 11% – meaning anything below double-digit pay increases are pay cuts in real terms.

Today’s demonstration must be the start of a fightback, but simply calling for a return of the Stormont Executive is not enough. The track record of all the main parties here shows they will only take measures to address this crisis if they feel forced to do so. After all, these are the same parties who implemented a 3% pay rise – well below the level of inflation – for health workers only a few months ago. They also voted against a 10% rent cut. We need to build mass pressure on the political establishment in Stormont and Westminster to introduce measures that not only provide temporary, minor relief but that actually help workers deal with this crisis more generally. 

The Tories and Stormont politicians claim this crisis is due to an unfortunate set of circumstances outside of their control, like the disruption of supply chains and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Nothing is said about profiteering by big business and the workings of the capitalist market, which is designed to prioritise the profits of a few over everything else. Their “solutions” amount to drops in the ocean compared to the radical measures we need, including: 

  1. Above-inflation pay rises & a minimum wage of £15/hour with no exemptions 
  2. Homes, not profits – for rent cuts and freezes at affordable rates
  3. Nationalise the major energy companies under democratic control to cut out profiteering and bring down prices, with major investment in renewable energy
  4. A fully funded and efficient public transport network, free and accessible to all as part of a socialist Green New Deal.

Marching to the top of the hill is not enough: RMT shows what is needed We need to strike back!

Already, we have seen a significant increase in strike ballots and important action by local authority workers, Caterpillar workers and university staff. Translink workers also got a significantly improved offer when they threatened strike action. We are likely to see more and more workers forced to take action as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

In Britain, the rail strike shows the power workers have and that they would be widely supported. Despite the fanatical propaganda from the Tory press, 58% support the strike, including 72% of young people. 

Unfortunately, the resolve we have seen by workers on picket lines has not been matched by the majority of leaders of the trade union movement. Today’s demonstration cannot simply be about marching to the top of the hill and back down again. After today’s demonstration, we need to step up the pressure. The trade union movement should:

  • Name the date for a day of action involving well-advertised public protests in towns and city centres to put politicians under pressure.
  • Coordinate and expand industrial action with simultaneous ballots and strikes across sectors.
  • Organise unorganised workers, particularly agency staff – this is essential to strengthen any further action taken by the unions and win pay rises.
  • Bring workers and their union representatives together to democratically discuss the way forward for a sustained campaign of action, including the need to build a cross-community, socialist political alternative for working people.

We want to live, not just exist

While the world’s richest eight individuals have as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the global population, we cannot hope for an equal or just society. Capitalism creates the basis for inequality, climate destruction and wars in its relentless pursuit of ever-increasing profits. If this system cannot afford to provide workers with living wages; if it cannot afford to ensure production and other aspects of the economy do not destroy the very environment we need to be able to live – then we cannot afford to let this system continue.

We need to break the rule of the big corporations by taking the key sections of the economy into democratic public ownership and using them to meet the needs of all. To achieve this, we need to build a mass movement, uniting working-class people in this common struggle across the sectarian divide. As part of International Socialist Alternative, which organises in over 30 countries, we are fighting for the socialist transformation of society here and internationally. Find out more and get involved today!

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