The St Mungo’s homeless charity strike that as a rep I helped to lead was in many ways a reflection of the issues surrounding other disputes throughout the strike wave in 2023.
Instead of putting trust in Keir Starmer to deliver change, it’s strikes like ours and the growth of grassroots networks that give hope. Our strike lasted 13 weeks throughout the summer of last year.
It was prompted by the huge rise in inflation and cost of living. But another factor was the senior exec team’s salary going up over 300 percent in ten years, while ours had decreased 30 percent.
Some of our workers were using food banks. There were reports of some workers even facing homelessness themselves.
With a demand for a 10 percent increase in wages, we initially took four weeks of strikes. Our CEO refused to budge however, offering us nothing at all in that period.
The anger that ensued led union members to vote for all out, indefinite action. To sustain this action we built solidarity everywhere we could. We reached out to unions across all sectors and had vibrant picket lines every day.
We raised around £50,000 for our strike fund in order to allow people to afford to stay out on strike.
Despite all of this, our leverage was undermined by some Unite union officials. This emboldened management who recognised weakness in the leadership.
After 13 weeks of action, people were ultimately balloted to exhaustion and accepted a deal which was nowhere near what people had committed so much time and effort to fight for. But we have almost doubled in membership size as a union.
There are determined activists that are committed to strengthening the workplace more than ever and keep fighting for fair pay and conditions at work.
Stuart, East London
Evictions hit single mothers
A broken housing system and the absence of rent controls mean that homes are unaffordable and evictions in Britain are rising steeply.
The latest figures from homelessness charity Shelter show that single parents, especially single mothers, are terribly affected.
One in seven, or about 74,000 people, are at risk of losing their home because they can’t pay their rent.
The figures are shocking. But there has been no political will from Labour or the Tories to address the root causes and eliminate homelessness.
The result is generations living in a cycle of homelessness and temporary accommodation. They are in perpetual misery and increasingly threatened by ill health. This is another symptom of the rotten system we live under.
Structural inequalities at the heart of capitalist profiteering mean that single parents, women and BME communities are the worst affected, with little or no protection from the “housing crisis”.
The resulting negative social and economic consequences raise the importance of moving away from market-led policies and treat housing as a human right not a financial asset.
Socialists in Britain need to keep fighting for housing rights for all, particularly for homeless people, those in temporary accommodation and those facing eviction.
Boglarka Filler, East London
Warning as Labour spurns the junior doctors’ strike
Perhaps it’s not a surprise, but it is still scandalous that the Labour Party refuses to back the striking
Shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said last week, “I didn’t want to see this strike take place, Labour didn’t want to see this strike taking place because of the inevitable disruption that it causes.”
He went on to raise whether the government was doing enough to secure a settlement. But he added that Labour doesn’t back the doctors’ pay demands.
I don’t have any doubt that if and when we have a Labour government, the same issues will reappear and we will see trade unions in conflict with the government just as now.
All of us who have rightly stood with the BMA union and its struggle for the NHS and over pay should take heed of the attitude Labour has adopted.
Jill Palmer, West London
Condemn friends of the paedophile financier
The release last week of court documents relating to the late paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein should finally condemn prince Andrew. But they probably won’t shake the royals’ support for him.
The accusations against Andrew, including claims he had sex with an underage Virginia Giuffre, are there.
A filing regarding “Jane Doe #3”, believed to be Giuffre, alleges she was “forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor in three separate geographical locations.”
The documents were gathered for Giuffre’s 2015 defamation case against Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.
Maxwell is said to have introduced Andrew to the financier, and is serving 20 years in a US prison for conspiring with Epstein to sexually abuse minors.
The documents also make allegations about former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a staunch supporter of Israel.
They say, “Epstein required Jane Doe #3 to have sexual relations with Dershowitz on numerous occasions while she was a minor, not only in Florida but also on private planes, in New York, New Mexico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“In addition Dershowitz was an eye-witness to the sexual abuse of many other minors.” He denies this. The guilty must not escape.
Jackil Billingham, Bristol
Refugee win in Chichester
Chichester Supports Refugees had a major victory recently. Anti-refugee group Chichester People First, which had been protesting outside a local hotel housing refugees, failed to turn up at a protest.
About 30 supporters of refugees turned out again with banners and music. Many cars going past honked their horns, showing many local people support refugees.
A couple of racists drove their cars past, but it was clear they were outnumbered, as they have been most weeks. They didn’t feel able to even set up a picket.
We start again in 2024, but definitely a victory for now.
Penny Foskett, Portsmouth
Boycott must tackle Israel
South African apartheid was ended partly through boycotts by international sport and entertainment artists. Could not the same be applied to Israel?
Petitions should be organised to veto Israel playing international matches including participation in European football competitions and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Martin Newman by email
Living in this world of waste
We live in a twisted society. In the first week of January, £1.4 billion of items were winging their way back to retailers because they were unsuitable Christmas presents or New Year purchases.
That might be good for the courier firms, but it’s a massive ecological waste. The priority given to commercial interests has bad effects everywhere.
David Linden, Worcester
Force general election now
All the opposition parties denounced Rishi Sunak for saying a general election won’t take place until much later this year. Will they now take the action needed to force a vote?
Margaret Chambers, EdinburghOriginal post