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Voices of Scotland Look to the McStrikers for inspiration

Don’t be distracted by Tory divide-and-rule politics – workers have huge power, if only they’re prepared to wield it, says MARK McHUGH

WE are currently living at a time where working and living conditions are worsening and company profits are on the rise.

Financial and political institutions are rigged in favour of a small group with narrow interests and people on the bottom end of the pay scale are continually denied access to justice in the workplace.

Amazingly, anyone who raises the issue of a considerably uneven playing field and makes a call for equality is quickly labelled as “hard-left,” “looney left,” a “Trot,” a “Marxist” or even a “Leninist” by a deeply corrupt media, owned and influenced by those same people with narrow interests, who will desperately cling to the status quo for grim death.

Surely, it’s time to up the ante in the quest for political change. A change that at least might put an end to the House of Lords £300-a-day for bugger-all “bung” and an end to elected MPs treating their constituents with utter contempt by dozing off on Parliament’s green benches.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and Richard Leonard’s in Scotland gives genuine hope to the people left behind by this Tory government, but they can’t do it on their own.

This then begs the question: who can we look to in order to move from blind hope into the warm and soothing arms of hard-fought reality?

How about young workers? On the face of it, they have no chance of progression while chained to zero-hours contracts and discriminatory wage rates based, unbelievably, on their age group.

However, as we saw with McDonald’s workers at two restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, when young people get together, stand together and organise together, they can achieve a great deal.

The young workers at those two McDonald’s restaurants joined the BFAWU, sought guidance from organisers and union officials and then took the brave decision to face down one of the biggest, most ruthless organisations in the world by way of strike action.

Not only were their grievances dealt with, which led to the dismissal of a number of managers, they also secured a pay rise worth 6.7 per cent.

Just imagine what could be achieved if 200 McDonald’s workers took the same action.

They actually have the collective strength to help bring about change that could lead to the crushing of casualisation in the British fast-food industry. They just don’t know it. Why do they not know it? Because they are constantly told that they can’t change anything and “that’s just the way it is.”

People use terms such as “burger-flippers,” which helps fast-food workers to be viewed as somehow less human than other workers.

A Glasgow businessman has recently taken over the three main city centre McDonald’s restaurants, taking his franchise tally to 18, with over 1,200 employees.

What career opportunities do any of them have that might take them to his level? I’d like to see all 1,200 of them knocking on his office door, getting ready to ask him.

The truth of the matter is that we fall for the tried and tested divide-and-rule strategy. The “look over there” politics of the Conservatives and their friends in the media led vast numbers of the public to blame migrants for all of society’s ills.

The shambles that is Brexit now means that many of them — a good number of whom have propped up our NHS and food industry for decades — are either being sent home or are leaving the country voluntarily as they no longer feel welcome.

The government successfully played the public sector against the private sector over pensions, to such a degree that we now have an ageing workforce that will have to work longer in order to secure the most basic retirement, that’s if they ever get to retire at all.

We allowed able-bodied people to be set against disabled people, the end result being the closure of Remploy factories and wave after wave of people whose lives were already hell-on-wheels being found “fit for work” via capability assessments, only to die weeks later from either their medical conditions or suicide.

What a country we live in. Sexual harassment in the workplace, be it in Westminster, the BBC or the Presidents Club is rife.

We have an NHS crisis, created by the Conservatives in order to soften it up for privatisation and profit, with the greedy, ruthless, tax-avoiding, fake “philanthropist” Richard Branson waiting in the wings to take charge.

We have the rise of foodbanks and homeless people on the streets of every major town and city in Britain.

We have the absolute totemic example of British inequality with the charred remains of Grenfell Tower jutting out blackly into the London skyline like an abandoned burned-out Roman candle.

We’re witnessing an almost endless litany of industrial-scale human suffering, more befitting of a Stephen King novel than one of the world’s richest economies. Yet large numbers of people still look the other way while getting excited about royal weddings and royal babies, despite the millions of pounds of public money wasted on this outdated, pointless and regressive institution.

Make no mistake about it, since 2010 we have been thrust deeper and deeper into a class war not seen in a generation, but rather than be the scalpel that lances the pus-filled cyst, a combination of divide and rule and dumbed-down tabloid and TV entertainment distractions have turned us into a society of frogs being slowly boiled.

There is still time to stop it and make the necessary social and political change, but we’ll need to look to the example of the McDonald’s workers at Crayford and Cambridge for inspiration.

Let’s not be bowed by the size of the task or who we’re taking on; let’s get together, stick together, organise together and face it down once and for all.

It’s either that, or oblivion.

Mark McHugh is organising regional secretary of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union.


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