Trade union action needed to fight the cost-of-living crisis

TUC demo must be built as a step to wider action

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1172

In this unstable world of soaring prices and low pay, war, Covid and climate disaster, one thing is certain: we cannot rely on capitalist politicians to take decisive action on our behalf.

In his Spring statement, multi-millionaire Rishi Sunak claimed to be doing what he can to help. Really his main aim is to keep big business making profits while economic crisis develops. But the Tories also weigh up the anger in society to work out what they can get away with.

That includes looking over their shoulders at Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and the trade union leaders. What threat comes from that direction?

That is why the national demonstration called by the TUC for 18 June is important.

The Socialist Party has been demanding the TUC call a national demonstration for some time. There is enormous anger, expressed in the pay consultations of public sector union members and in localised strikes among HGV drivers and in schools.

A big national demonstration by the trade union movement, which organises six million workers, could have a galvanising effect, and should be a stepping stone towards coordinated national strike action. That’s what happened when 750,000 people marched against austerity in March 2011 – that massive demo was followed by effectively a public sector general strike in November.

The national TUC demonstration that was supposed to take place in Blackpool on 19 March was never enough – called at short notice and difficult for much of the country to get to for 10am – but when it was cancelled, the Socialist Party demanded ‘name the date’ for a proper national demo.

Workers’ pressure

Now, under pressure from workers, including the correct decision of the Blackpool trade union movement to go ahead with a demonstration, the date for a national TUC protest has been named: 18 June in Parliament Square. It is vital that all the stops are pulled out to ensure that rather than simply a static gathering in the square, this is made into a big, successful demonstration.

The TUC should produce thousands of leaflets for each union to distribute to its branches so that every workplace has leaflets on its notice boards, desks and workbenches. Unions should call workplace meetings in every area to plan how to mobilise, and organise subsidised transport to London. The TUC says there will be ‘town hall meetings’ around the country: we say, put the strikers from Coventry bins, P&O RMT members, victorious health strikers, and so on, on those platforms to help build momentum. This should be combined with immediate mass protests at the ports to demand nationalisation of P&O.

It must be made clear that this demonstration is not a one-off, but part of a campaign to build confidence and prepare for strike action. That is what will pile on the pressure.

The Socialist Party argues for a such action to win pay rises, and we put forward a socialist programme that would secure decent living conditions long-term: a programme of public investment, nationalisation of the major companies under democratic control, and socialist planning of the resources necessary to ensure a good life for all.

That also means the trade union movement taking responsibility for its own political voice. Starmer’s Labour Party has no intention of nationalising vicious companies like P&O, or the energy companies to ensure cheap fuel. We have to take on the Tories but that means we also have to fight for a mass working-class party that will fight in the interests of working-class people.

We say:

Price rises

  • No rise in the energy price cap. Nationalise energy and other utilities under democratic workers’ control and management to reduce bills by removing the profit motive
  • Scrap the planned increase in public transport fares. Return transport into public hands, to guarantee a fully funded, free, environmentally friendly, sustainable transport system
  • Stop price rises, end bosses’ profiteering. Open the books of big retailers to inspection by trade unions. Nationalise the big retailers under democratic workers’ control to be run to meet need, not for profit

Pay, benefits, pensions

  • An immediate above-inflation pay rise for workers to restore wages after over a decade of pay freezes and below-inflation rises
  • Regular pay increases for all, linked to trade-union agreed measures of inflation
  • Raise the minimum wage to £15 an hour, without exemptions
  • Restore the pension triple lock
  • Restore the additional £20-a-week Universal Credit payment. End the benefit cap.
  • Living benefits and pensions for all who need them, rising with the cost of living


  • Freeze council and social housing rents
  • Rent controls to cap rents – decided by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and trade union representatives

Make the rich pay, not the workers

  • Scrap the planned rise in national insurance, freeze council tax, and scrap student debt
  • No worker should be made to pay more tax, raise tax thresholds in-line with inflation
  • Take the wealth off the super-rich, nationalise the top 150 companies and banks to be run under democratic working-class control and management, with compensation only on the basis of proven need

New workers’ party

  • No trust in Starmer’s Labour to fight in our interests. For a new mass workers’ party based on trade union and workers’ struggle


  • End the chaos of the capitalist market. For a socialist plan of production, based on the need of the overwhelming majority, not for profit