Mark Serwotka, General Secretary PCS union addresses Assembly
‘We want to destroy the myths and downright lies of austerity,
banking and privatisation in language we all understand.
The same people who were in charge in the crash
are still there today – can we change that?’
That is the challenge involved in seeking to build a broad based movement among working people and their organisations and single issue campaigns for positive change, not just protest against austerity and cuts.
In his introductory welcome at the Croydon Assembly at Ruskin House on Saturday 15 November, Ted Knight, an executive member of the Croydon Trades Union Council (CTUC), and Secretary of the Unite Croydon Retired Members branch, explained the purpose why the CTUC had organised the Assembly forum.
In elections during recent years, particularly in the European election, and the latest bye-elections, it was noticeable that working class families have not so readily used their vote. Larger numbers have stayed at home, and others have made their protest against the traditional parties.
Certainly there is the feeling that the voice of those communities has not been listened to. In the bail out of the banks in the financial crash working people felt they had no say – but it is they and their families that have had to bear the cost of that crisis.
Each and everyone of us can tell a horror story of:
- how the most vulnerable in our communities are being hounded and whose lives and hopes are being crushed;
- how the welfare state, brought into existence by the determination of working people at the end of World War II is now being torn apart;
- how daily our families are being ripped off – by the big corporations , energy companies and supermarkets.
Most people in this room have signed the petitions and taken to the streets in protest and marched, but still the Government tells us that austerity is necessary.
The general election of May next year draws closer. But we are told that austerity will be with us for years to come. The oft repeated upturn in the economy does not come into our wages, benefits or pensions.
Each of us will decide how best to use our vote in that election, but when the arithmetic in seats is worked out we know that we will still face a struggle to defend and push forward the living standards of our families. We will have to repeat many of the same battles so we want to provide an opportunity for that voice that has been ignored to be heard again.
We saw in the Scottish referendum how when people thought that they could change who controlled their lives, that there may be a possibility of a new order in society that the vote may have some meaning, they did engage across Scotland for 12 months and more. People gathered in village halls, church halls, pubs and front rooms to debate and discuss how they could change society and the political system. However you viewed that result change is still going forward.
We believe that the people of Croydon , and those living in London and across the country can also raise their voices from just protest to a challenge for change:
- in health – bringing together the workers of the service and the people who use it, and they will decide how you can stop the profiteers
- in education – the teachers and the students and the families know how best to deliver the service
- in housing – people struggling to get on the ladder and those being pushed off the ladder, tenants facing greedy landlords and social tenants being faced with cuts and rent increases, together with workers in the building industry, know what is meant by affordable housing.
We want to destroy the myths and downright lies of austerity, banking and privatisation in language we all understand. The same people who were in charge in the crash are still there today – can we change that?
- Welfare and pensions – these are rights not charity – we need to re-establish that again.
- Climate change — action is needed now.
- Local economy – this affects every family in the Borough.
- Race and immigration – how do we unite our communities?
- What is democracy – what is accountability?
We invite you to join these workshops today – tell your experience and your views. Let us work out new policies and then discuss how we campaign to win support for them.
If the workshops are worthwhile – then let us continue them on a regular basis.
If we are successful then we want to link up with other assemblies and bring more people into the debate and then see how best we can act together.
We will reconvene the Assembly within the next four to six months to review what progress has been made and how to carry forward the alliances we are building beyond the general election.
We have asked today some keynote speakers to pinpoint the issues we are facing each of them is campaigning daily to build the movement that will make the changes but today we very much want to hear your voice.
Attendees included members of local trade union branches, community and voluntary groups, and single issue campaigns including teachers, civil servants, railwaymen, residents and tenants, ethnic minorities, pensioners, people with disabilities, and some Labour Councillors and party activists.
Note. Those attending the nine working groups held throughout
the day will continue to discuss the issues through meetings
and email. More news on when and where soon.
There were many apologies including from those attending other political and campaigning events including the Stop the Killing Coalition demonstration in Oxford St in memory of the 76,000 people killed by vehicles on the roads over the last decade.