‘It is time for the trade union movement to be reborn,’ huge crowd at Durham Miners’ Gala hears
Morning Star | July 10, 2022
UNIONS declared “we’re back!” in a resounding message to employers at the Durham Miners’ Gala on Saturday as a crowd of more than 200,000 roared their approval.
The declaration came from RMT general secretary Mick Lynch and was backed by speaker after speaker, including Unite’s Sharon Graham, who told the mass gathering: “It is time for the trade union movement to be reborn.
“We must organise, we must mobilise and, crucially, we must act as one.”
Speeches reflected growing working-class anger at the government’s continuing attack on working people and pledged support for key workers, whom this year’s gala was dedicated to.
Leaders of teachers, hospital workers, university lecturers, bus drivers and the whole spectrum of the public sector committed themselves to a co-ordinated fight against government policies that have seen workers driven to use food banks and wages subsidised by taxpayers because they are so low.
Following three days of action two weeks ago, rail workers are expected to stage more strikes after RMT’s national executive meets later this week.
Mr Lynch said: “The working class is back. We refuse to be humble any more. We refuse to be poor any more.
“We are sick and tired of the Old Etonians, the Old Harrovians, the Oxbridge elite, people who have never worked in their lives.
“We have cities, towns, villages of working-class men and women having to claim benefits while they are working 40, 50 and 60 hours a week: this cannot stand.
“The Tories and their friends are ruthless in their pursuit of profit. We have to be ruthless in our pursuit of justice for the working class.
“They want to rip up our conditions, our pay, our pensions: we will not tolerate this.
“The RMT is ready to act and we will act. But we need the trade union movement with us.
“Make every worker a trade union member, every member an activist, every activist a campaigner and turn this into a campaign of strike action.”
Ms Graham told the gathering that Unite members had fought and won 300 disputes by taking action since she was elected.
She said that working people had been called on to deal with crises “while others sat at home.
“Then, when the crisis is over, they expect us to pay for it.
“No more. We are not going to let the rich and powerful take us for a ride again.
“The trade union movement is the power of the working class. Unite stands with every worker in struggle — rail, postal workers, teachers.
“We will not stand by while profits soar.
“It is time to stop playing the bosses’ game. And our unity must not be just talk: it must be real.”
In a direct challenge to anti-strike laws, she said: “We do not need legislation to co-ordinate our action. We do not need them to tell us we cannot co-ordinate. We can do it now.”
Ms Graham warned that “they will come for us,” but went on: “The collective is the real power of the trade union movement.”
Every speech was punctuated by roars of approval and applause from the enthusiastic crowd.
Patrick Roach, general secretary of 300,000-strong teaching union NASUWT, said: “The rights of working people have never been given to us. We have always had to fight for them, and it is time to fight again.
“My union will not stand by as teachers who have given their all are driven from their jobs. Our fight for justice starts right here, right now.
“We will ballot our members for industrial action if the government does not deliver an above-inflation pay rise that they need and deserve.”
Jo Grady, general secretary of the University & College Union (UCU), whose members are involved in strike action, said that although former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher had been dead for a decade, “greed, entitlement and vindictiveness at the heart of Tory ideology” had not changed.
“We are taking industrial action relentlessly in our colleges, universities, prisons, communities,” she said.