This Saturdayâ€™s Durham Minersâ€™ Gala was an indication of the changed position for the labour movement. Not only was this a very big gala but many of the speakers were directly involved in major industrial disputes – or at least preparation for major disputes – that are in their own right significant events.
Speeches from the platform – both senior trade union leaders and rank and file members – were very sharply focused on the cost of living crisis and the betrayal of working people who had provided essential services during the pandemic only to be given pay cuts and attacks on their conditions.
A series of threads ran through many of these speeches and those of senior trade unionists at the pre-gala rally organised by the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the Institute for Employment Rights. For example: building trade union strength across the sectors they organise in; how solidarity for unions taking industrial action can be delivered from other unions; the political implications of a new phase of trade union action, including for Labour; how trade unions can or should relate to their local communities.
The RMTâ€™s General Secretary, Mick Lynch, said in his gala speech: “We’re back. The working class is back. We refuse to be meek, we refuse to be humble and we refuse to be poor anymore.”
The new combativity places the labour movement in a big fight with the Tory party and employers who want to extract more out of working people for less and are prepared to use all the tactics available to them, from fire and rehire to legalising the use of agency workers to break strikes.