This fortnights meeting was on Low Pay by myself. I started off by discussing how the problem wasn't just pay itself - although the poverty level minimum wage and the public sector pay freeze is angering many. We've recently also seen increases in council tax, the scrapping of the 10p tax rate and huge increases in the costs of goods. At the same time revelations about just how good the rich are living adds insult to injury, not just details of MP's ridiculous expenses but with profits increasing for many energy companies and bail-outs of banks like northern rock when they get into trouble whilst nothing of the sort is offered to ordinary people.
I carried on by mentioning how the argument that wage increases inevitabily leads to inflation is inaccurate and briefly discussed Marx's comments on wage increases and whether or not that increases the prices of commodities in his pamphlet Value, Price and Profit.
From there we discussed what could be done about. The first obvious place to look is the trade unions - after all this is effectively their job, but unfortunately with some notable exceptions, many of the trade union leaders simply do not want to fight for these - either brokering bad partnerships like USDAW or saying that a better deal isn't possible (UNISON health). Thus we need to challenge these bad leaderships. The question of a political voice is also important as this can help strengthen such campaigns for better pay.
The discussion then led to comments about the petrol tanker drivers strike, with Sister J asking how the lessons of this can be used to help further other struggles, and also questioned whether their much higher income compared to many other workers would be used to divide workers. Brother K replied that this was indeed the tactic used by councils try to implement single status and we need to explain that we argue for levelling pay upwards rather than bringing some peoples pay down to increase the low paid (obviously we're not talking about people on several hundred thousand a year here!).
There was then a general discussion about what we could do locally to support workers struggles, with a discussion of what the branch had done up to now, and then talk of how we could take this forward and build a local stewards network as well as try and build support for the campaign for a new workers party locally. (Incidentally the CNWP conference is in London this weekend - Sunday 29th June - and looks to be fantastic - see www.cnwp.org.uk)