Swansea Celebrates May Day 2014
4th May 2014
Swansea Socialist Party members (resplendent in new Party T-shirts) joined other trade unionists for Swansea Trades Council’s May Day rally. Together we honoured the memory of Tony Benn and Bob Crow by committing ourselves to continue their fight for socialism.
Tyrone O’Sullivan was the first guest speaker, South Wales NUM during the miners’ strike and leader of the workers’ co-operative at Tower Colliery. Tower colliery as Tyrone explained, proved not only that Tory lies about the viability of the coal industry were just that - lies, but also that workers can run their industries better than the bosses. Tyrone was adamant that the miners’ could have defeated Thatcher 30 years’ ago but for the betrayal of Labour leaders like Kinnock. Despite being, in his words, “a Labour man all my life”, Tyrone reserved his bitterest words for the Blair/Brown government, “Labour had three terms in office, three terms in office and did bugger all!".
Swansea West Labour MP, Geraint Davies, congratulated the Visteon Pensions Action Group (VPAG), which, after 5 years hard campaigning, may be close to achieving a measure of justice. Plaid Cymru AM, Bethan Jenkins, was unable to be there in person but had sent greetings and passed on her congratulations to the campaigners as well. VPAG members are considering an offer and are legally bound not to discuss the details or campaign on the issue while the offer is under consideration but representative Mike Guard, thanked local politicians, trades unionists and the Trades Council for the support they have received in the last 5 years. Geraint Davies also spoke out against those that have attempted to bring racist division to the City recently – the National Front and then Nigel Farage and UKIP.
Continuing the theme of opposing racism was Swansea Socialist Party Branch Secretary, Claire Job, representing No2EU – yes to workers’ rights. Claire linked the fight against racist division with the need for a united campaign to end the poverty and misery that racism breeds off as she called for a united campaign of ‘Jobs & Services Not Racism’. Unlike our Labour MP, who said Wales needs the EU, Claire explained that the fight to defeat austerity involves fighting against the “bosses club” that is the EU. The EU, Claire said, as well as driving privatisation of public services like the NHS and inflicting austerity and misery on millions across Europe, allows employers to get round locally agreed union rates of pay or terms and conditions by exempting migrant workers and allowing them to be paid less. We must fight for the union rate for the job, regardless of the origin of the workers, Claire said.
The rally pledged support to all workers involved in disputes currently, firefighters in the FBU out on strike that weekend, RMT members opposing zero hours contracts, teachers and many others. In many cases these workers are defending not just their own terms and conditions but important public services. The rally heard from one such set of workers. UNISON members in Gwalia Housing Association have voted overwhelmingly for strike action, over Gwalia’s drive to cut jobs and attack terms and conditions. Their representative, Allan Thompson, explained that strike action had been postponed in order to reach agreement on how to protect some of their most vulnerable clients but that this is a postponement only and that workers are determined and angry, especially as what they see as victimisation of colleagues that have been most vocal in speaking out.
Swansea Trades Council’s May Day Rally remembered the struggles of the past, applauded a 5-year struggle, debated the attitude trade unionists should take to the EU and pledged ourselves to supporting current struggles. All in all – a good effort.
Socialist Party members had a successful intervention as well with 3 people signing up to find out more about the Party and how we fight for socialism.
Ronnie Job, Secretary Swansea Trades Council (personal capacity) and Swansea Socialist Party