A rally held at East Sussex College last Thursday evening by Hastings & District Trades Union Council under
the slogan Hastings Demands Better attracted a cast of prominent local speakers, including borough council leader Paul Barnett, local foodbank manager John Wales, debt centre manager Nick Warren and several union officials. The event was a precursor to an intended mass rally to be held in London on 18 June to demand an effective response from government to the rise in the cost of living.
Chair for the evening, Sam Gurney, who is Regional Secretary of the TUC, urged all people protesting and campaigning against austerity and poverty to make a common front. “None of them can win on their own”, he told the assembly. “These meetings… are about all of us – trade unions, community groups, charities and local politicians – coming together to deal with this government.”
In contrast to his emollient address to the cross-party council meeting the previous evening Cllr Barnett declared the issue to be “a class war”, invoked Robert Tressell, Ricky Tomlinson and Jeremy Corbyn, and pledged that he would fight to win “a better deal for the people of Hastings”.
Wales told the meeting that, people were more likely to die in Hastings now from lack of food and heating than they are from drink or drugs. The Government’s belated action (announced that day) in helping people with energy bills was welcome – “but it’s not enough, and it’s not over”.
Speakers from the RMT, GMB, PCS, NEU, Unite and Unison unions all urged support for collective action, local or national. Diane Ebanks of PCS said: “Those things we do have, we have because previous generations of workers struggled for them. We get what we need only by coming together and demanding. This is not identity politics. This is class struggle, and we need to win it.”
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