Trade unionists in Leeds have launched ‘Leeds Get Organised’, taking inspiration from the Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise campaign. With the ruling class attempting to tighten the screws on workers, workers must get prepared to fight back.
The ‘Leeds Get Organised’ campaign was launched at a meeting on May Day held by Leeds Trades Union Council (Leeds TUC) and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU).
Inspired by the success of the sister campaign, Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise (SNAP), the main goal of the campaign is to help unionise workers in the city. It aims to do this through building up groups of workers to take collective action in under-unionised workplaces.
A large section of Britain’s economy consists of workers who lack any kind of unionisation in their workplace. In fact, only 23.5% of UK workers were members of a trade union in 2019.
After a decade of austerity, workers have suffered increasing job insecurity and low pay. With even further attacks from the Tories on the cards, workers must organise now and prepare for militant struggle ahead.
Recent research has shown that 33% of children aged 16 and under in Leeds are living in families with the lowest band of income (up to £12,570 pa). These children are born into poverty and a system that is categorically failing them.
In fact, foodbank use in Leeds rose by 23% during the pandemic, and those on Universal Credit rose by 99%! In nearby Bradford, foodbank use trebled compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Redundancies in Yorkshire are at their highest level for 10 years, according to data collected by the local TUC. There has also been a 15% increase in unemployment since the start of the pandemic. This will ultimately fall hardest on young workers who are looking down the barrel of mass unemployment for the foreseeable future.
Sheffield has, like the rest of Britain, suffered from severe austerity for years. It has been dubbed ‘the low pay capital’ of the UK. A report in 2019 said that one in ten workers were paid less than £7.90 per hour.
These figures are just a glimpse of the dire circumstances that millions of workers live through under capitalism in decay.
Preparing for battle
Through raising money from individuals, community organisations and the trade union movement, SNAP were able to hire a full-time organiser to coordinate their campaign. They were able to secure job retention schemes with large local companies, and rallied workers in the fight against COVID sackings and the now rampant fire-and-rehire practices of the bosses.
One particular victory saw workers at a Papa John’s pizza franchise organise against a boss who had been holding back wages owed to workers. SNAP organised solidarity action with workers organised through BFAWU, and eventually the workers received all the money they were owed. This shows that militancy from workers everywhere will get results.
It is extremely important that the workers across the country get organised, unionised and mobilised against attacks from employers. It shows that with organisation and militancy, victories against the bosses are possible.
Trade union victories can have the effect of inspiring other workers into the fight against the bosses. Indeed, the issue is not just the odd rogue employer in Leeds or Sheffield but the whole capitalist system.
We must not allow trade unions or workers to be isolated and picked off one at a time. Ultimately, a national mass campaign to fight the Tories and bosses is needed.
The TUC needs to coordinate this struggle, by acting as the general staff for the whole movement. If the current leaders are unwilling to lead such a fight, they must be replaced by those who are prepared to do so.
Mass struggle needed
We need other trade unions to follow the militant example of the BFAWU by organising workers to oppose attacks on pay and conditions. Workers in Sheffield have tasted victory and this bodes well for the campaign in Leeds. After all, appetite comes with eating.
In addition to local unionisation campaigns, the whole labour movement, including local Labour councillors, should mobilise against further austerity. We must demand that the bosses pay for this crisis, not the working class.
The TUC must call for a mass campaign to fight back against wage cuts, attacks on terms and conditions, and redundancies. We urgently need an ‘Action Programme’ that puts defence of the working class at the forefront. This must be linked to the struggle for socialism, in order to take power out of the hands of the bosses for good.