Socialist Worker 379

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit Belfast City Councillor, is standing in West Belfast for election to Westminster to give a political voice to anger at establishment parties and opposition to austerity.

Every vote for Carroll sends a message to Stormont and Westminster parties demanding an alternative to cuts, job lay-offs and the destruction of vital public services.

Instead of austerity, Carroll demands increased taxes on the super-rich and the reigning in of corporate tax dodgers like Google and Amazon.

Carroll says,

“I don’t consider myself a ‘politician’: I’m an activist, a Socialist and an advocate of West Belfast. I believe in doing politics differently: being visible on the ground, working for constituents and building a consensus for change through People Power and grassroots organisation.”

Union Action

Grassroots activism will be absolutely crucial to stop cuts and defend jobs.

Despite pressure not to continue action against austerity during the elections some unions are seizing the opportunity to send a message by striking in the run-up to May 7.

Bus, rail and ambulance workers are following-up the March 13 public sector strike with another 24-hour stoppage on the eve of the election.

Jimmy Kelly, UNITE general secretary and representing Translink workers, said

“The proposed cuts to bus and rail services being brought forward by Translink will impact the most vulnerable people in our society – including the old and infirm, those with families, the working poor, those living in isolated, rural communities who are dependent on public transport.

‘Cuts are being proposed to hospital runs, shopping services, rural routes and town centre buses as well as to cuts to morning, evening and Saturday rail services on the Larne-Belfast and Newry-Bangor lines.”

A UNITE official representing ambulance workers explained

“This fight is about protecting jobs and services and we will do what it takes to get the Stormont Mandarins to start treating the staff in health with respect and dignity.”

Ambulance workers were blocked from participating in the March 13 strike when management declared a last-minute emergency clause.

UNITE members across the health sector will engage in a work-to-rule campaign by refusing to carry out unpaid overtime from April 30 to May 10.

GBM NHS members will take action short of a strike for two weeks from April 27, while ambulance workers in the union will ban overtime for a fortnight from April 28.

Members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) voted to strike for four hours on April 30 to demand a 1% wage that’s already been given to their colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales. This is the first such vote in the college’s 134- year history.

The March 13 day of action across the North organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions demonstrated the tremendous power of the labour movement. Strikes by bus, rail, and ambulance workers in the run-up to May 7 will also send a powerful message to Stormont that resistance to austerity will continue.

These workers are right to strike and deserve our full solidarity. However, their strike action would be much more powerful if the ICTU called on all their member unions to back them by coming out on strike as well.

Standing up to racism and homophobia

Grassroots activism is crucial to defend public services and fight for living wage jobs but it’s also crucial to standing up to racism and homophobia.

Racist attacks on immigrants in both Belfast and Derry were met with large protests and calls for solidarity over scapegoating.

The homophobic outburst by Northern Ireland Health Minister and DUP MLA Jim Wells has been widely condemned and greeted with calls for his immediate resignation.

Whatever the outcome of the Westminster elections, all the establishment parties are committed to continuing austerity.

It’s ridiculous for Sinn Fein to claim a vote for them is ‘a vote against austerity’ as their election literature states when they are for the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement with its package of 20,000 jobs cuts, reduction of the Corporate Tax rate and increased privatisation of public services.

Austerity that leads to increased poverty and inequality is a potential breeding ground for the politics of hate and scapegoating.

This is why challenging austerity and fighting for working class solidarity over division and racism is key and must go hand-in-hand.

Keep up the Pressure

Stormont parties, as Sinn Fein’s U-turn on Welfare Reform showed, are susceptible to pressure.

To do this we will need more coordinated strike action by all the unions and the threat of sustained action, not just one-day strikes.

Union leaderships and activists now have a crucial role to play in preparing union members and co-workers for more action in defense of jobs and public services.

There is outrage at the daily news of the impact of cuts across the North. Grassroots campaigns can push back against these cuts and involve union, community and student activists.

In Derry, over 100 attended an anti-austerity rally initiated by People Before Profit.

The rally drew together activists involved in housing, health, disability, arts, anti-racist and trade union struggles.

When the Westminster election ends, the campaign for the North’s Assembly elections will begin.

Resistance through strikes and protests is crucial but we also need a political alternative to the parties of austerity.

Trade union, community and student struggles need a political voice that can encourage resistance and present an alternative to the politics of austerity, bigotry and sectarianism on offer in Stormont.

This is exactly what Gerry Carroll’s campaign and People Before Profit activists across the North are aiming to do by standing for Westminster and through organising grassroots struggle over the coming year.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login