Home > General Politics, Socialism, Trade Unions > Youth Fight for Jobs; demo and next steps

Youth Fight for Jobs; demo and next steps

Yesterday was the first major national demonstration of the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign. Perhaps just over a thousand three hundred young people attended the march, which moved from Malet St, just outside the University of London Students Union, to the Imperial War Museum in Kennington – via Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Square. Yours truly was one of those at the front, occasionally waving a red flag and looking angry, so watch out for that, when the pictures are released.

I was impressed by the character and political clarity of the march (if not by all of the chants). A lot of the young people there were genuinely angry that they faced rising costs of their university courses, or their university courses being cut altogether (witness the recent happenings across the country from Sussex, to Birmingham to LCC), or the prospect of finishing their university courses or college courses and not having a job to go to. Their call was largely for the government to take a bigger hand in the provision of jobs.

Instead of privatisation, nationalisation. Instead of spending billions to bail out banks and secure the bonus culture of the self-styled masters of the universe, spending billions to provide jobs in reconstructing our national infrastructure – education, transport, health and so on. From a capitalist point of view, these are not extreme demands; and capitalism benefits in the long term from a better educated populace, from more efficient transport networks and so on. But of course, the market deals in short term fixes, not long term.

More encouraging was the way cries of, “The workers united / will never be defeated!” and “Workers of the world / unite!” received the most thunderous support from the assembled crowd. It was a fairly clear message to the thousands of people passed on the route that these students were not merely looking out for their own selfish interest. Similarly cries of, “No ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts!” demonstrated the solidarity of these students with their teachers and with other workers.

The PCS had a strong contingent on the demo, from what I saw, so the solidarity there was practical rather than merely theoretical – and both the CWU and the RMT have endorsed the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign. On a local level, one of the Kent district trades councils funded our minibus, which we used to take people up to the demo – a process which, I’m sure, was replicated around the country. This is the sort of gesture which builds support and trust between politicised workers and students and it augurs well for the future.

As with most demonstrations, I’m not sure what it has achieved. Sean Figg, one of the Socialist Party organisers for the South-East, went to Downing Street with a petition of some ten thousand names. Yet this is the same Labour government which simply ignored demonstrations of millions. That said, I heard some interesting remarks repeated – that the political character of this demonstration was different to the recent anti-war march, that it was better, angrier and definitely more aggressively socialistic.

Certainly the Socialist Party will have had a good day recruiting; during the lead-up to the march, there were several stalls selling books and t-shirts and badges, plus members wandering through the crowd selling newspapers and talking to people about joining the SP. This type of active propagandising is important – because it’s one thing to demand jobs, it’s another to turn that into a conscious desire to join and agitate with a revolutionary socialist party. So on that score, I hope they did well.

Other groups weren’t hugely in evidence, beyond the PCS banner. There was one flag from the AUCPB, though I’ve never heard of them.

So, a particular socialist party grows a little, more people come over to the ideas of revolutionary socialism, but the practical effect of the day on the situation is nothing much – at least, nothing with regard to the stated objectives of getting the government to provide jobs. It may be said that this is really just the start of the campaign, so I look forward to seeing the next steps, particularly in getting students not just interested and to meetings, but to take on practical activities like defending the jobs we have.

University occupations may well be a tactic we see more of – it came back on the agenda with the attempt to force universities to divest themselves of any interest in arms manufacture and export (esp. to Israel) over their use in Gaza, and with the recent attacks on university jobs has come back into the picture. Yet we need to do more. There are a lot of young people who don’t go to university, and jobs for them are looking equally precarious.

This is one thing I believed to be lacking on the demo; no talk about supporting private sector workers, but emphasis on public sector. A lot of the people we walked by will no doubt be reading the same papers or watching the same news channels that bleat about bloated public sector pensions and government spending that is too high. We offered those people very little. We need to be carrying across the message that it’s not just the public sector we care about; the fightback is for all sorts employed by business.

Absent from the demonstration was a USDAW banner, or emblem of USDAW support for the campaign. Considering that many hundreds of thousands of young people get jobs with the major retailers and in the other trades represented by USDAW, this is significant. Because whatever the government does, you can bet that Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and the rest are doing it too. Getting rid of well-paid overtime for example. Anything that cuts the wages or lowers labour-related overheads for the company, to boost profits.

Unions like USDAW could take strong roles in offensive campaigns, such as demanding of the biggest companies that they spend money on providing more places for young workers and better training, training in transferable skills, across the board. This is not, obviously, what these unions are used to doing, but right there is where students come in. Plenty of students should be members of these unions, should be taking control of local union branches. We can be unionizing those young workers, and their non-student equivalents.

Our cry yesterday was “When they says cutback, we say fightback!” That’s eminently practicable. I’ll be reporting over the next few weeks how we do, and maybe by the time of the next march, it’ll be private sector young workers and unemployed leading the demonstration.

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  1. splinteredsunrise
    November 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Well done there! I just spotted it leaving Malet St and wondered what it was, seemed good and lively though. And of course the more union people there the better.

  2. November 29, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    On USDAW support for the YFJ,

    Robbie Segal a member of the EC is a supporter of the campaign in a personal capacity, and there were several USDAW members on the demo itself.

    As for the union itself backing the campaign, I believe the union can only support Labour Party backed campaigns at present (correct me if I’m wrong). Moreover, in my branch in particular we have no branch meetings, this is partly due to the geography of my USDAW branch, but also due to the resistance of union officials. This means as a branch we can’t back the campaign, despite both shop stewards at my store backing the campaign.

    Quite a lot of students who work in supermarkets tend to be fairly reluctant to join the union in my experience, partly because they don’t see the need at present when they only do a couple of 4 hour shifts a week.

    We do need to change this though, but it isn’t something that we can fix quickly

  3. November 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Oh I know all about the reluctance of students to join the union; I was a student worker at Tesco for about five years, and a member of USDAW. It was notoriously hard even to get discussions going about it.

    But I think, with the current threat to jobs, and some of the big supermarkets even closing down some of their stores, that the attitudes even of the people who work a couple of shifts might be changed if the rest of us can give the lead.

    It may not happen quickly, but then what ever does?

    I’m keen to stress the role that student workers can play because Canterbury faces a large amount of the usual anti-student gripes from residents, and it is a good way to show that students care about the communities in which they live and work – which most of them do.

  4. November 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Oh, definitely. I’ver been plugging away for ages, and we’ve managed to get more students joining the union, haven’t found it too hard to get the conversation started in the first place though. (from you using the word was i take it you don;t work in supermarkets any more?)

    Which big supermarkets are closing down stores – as far as i’m aware the big four supermarkets (ASDA, Morrisons, Tesco & Sainsburys) are all still growing businesses. Certainly Morrisons is opening new stores up at the moment.

    We get the same anti-student gripes in Bangor, so i share your view on that too

  5. November 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    D’you know, I can’t remember – but I was watching South East Today just two days ago and I was certain they mentioned stuff about some local supermarkets closing. Supermarkets are all posting record profits – certainly the four you mentioned – but individual stores are no safer from closure for that.

    And I’m no longer a student, nor work in supermarkets, correct.

  6. November 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Some of the stores Morrisons have opened are actually re-opened stores they bought off the co-op and a few other companies.

    wouldn’t suprise me if the big supermarkets were squeezing the little ones at the moment

  7. November 29, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    As it happens I have a post lined up on Tesco’s: the Everton planning decision, Tesco’s PR-based ‘support’ for Phillip Blond’s new Tory think tank (which advocates the break up of supermarkets) and the reality of what’s happening beyond the world of a think tank that Tesco’s are using as a way of ingratiating itself with a prospective new government.

    The reality is small store closures at the expense of huge edge of town stores, and compliant shareholders sanctioning the exploitation of agency labour.

  8. November 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    A few good pics of the day available here:

    http://www.demotix.com/news/youth-march-jobs-0

  1. July 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm

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