Trade Unionists in London can make a difference today

Kieron Merrett says Trade Unionists in London should vote Green on orange today to elect Trade Unionist Assembly Members – and every vote counts
Twitter: @kieronam

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Sian Berry, Green Mayoral Candidate and Green Assembly Member Candidate

I met Siân Berry in a café in North London in March, just before we were due to attend an RMT Regional Council meeting. She’d been one of only two Mayoral candidates who’d responded to the RMT’s call for information on policies – silence from the Labour and Tory candidates – and so she’d been invited to give her pitch in person to the delegates present.

My one job, as a full-time Trade Unionist and a Green Party activist, was to advise Siân about how best to speak to these union members. But it was clear from the outset that she wasn’t going to need any of my advice. As a veteran transport campaigner, Siân Berry has been campaigning for years to keep public services in public ownership and fully funded. And as a Green, she naturally supports the rights of workers to organise and fight for their pay and conditions.

So I just sat there while she spoke about her plans to bring the railways under direct public control, to ensure that London’s transport services are fully funded and staffed, and to make them fairer by flattening fares for outer London (and this plan is fully costed). That’s not to mention her other proposals, which include organising London’s renters in a Renters’ Union to take on their landlords, or kicking out big-business lobbyists from City Hall. And she’d been asked specifically to confirm her support for air-pollution controls – a perfect opportunity for her to remind us that her policies for bringing down air pollution had been rated 10/10 by the Clean Air in London campaign.

She spoke about her own personal support for workers’ right to take action to defend their pay. She’d stood with the BMA junior doctors on strike at several hospitals in London. She’d met with GMB cab drivers taking action over Uber and its abuse of legal loopholes. And last year, when Zac Goldsmith said Londoners needed to be “protected” from tube strikes, Siân said that “Tube workers are Londoners too,” and gave them her full support.

Siân told the members about the Greens in City Hall winning the Living Wage Unit, and ensuring that the GLA’s staff are all paid the London Living Wage, including those in privatised services. But importantly, she went on to say that the Greens would support moves to ensure that all these workers were fully unionised, and able to fight for their own pay rises through their union.

That was great to hear. I was reminded of my experience in Wandsworth a couple of years ago, when I led a pay dispute with a group of outsourced local government workers. Then, local Labour councillors had refused to support the workers on strike, because they were claiming a wage above the ‘official’ London Living Wage set for them by City Hall. By contrast, I was now hearing the Green Mayoral candidate supporting workers’ right to negotiate for themselves.

It struck me, in the end, that I hadn’t had to intervene because actually Green policies simply match up with the ones that many Trade Unionists have been asking for for years. And, of course, that’s why I joined the Green Party in the first place. Should we, as Trade Unionists, really have to fight endlessly with our own party just to get basic policies through, such as ending the outsourcing of services to the private sector, or abolishing restrictions on the right to strike? Why don’t we just support the party which has all of these policies anyway, and is proud of them?

VGOOBanner-copyThere’s a tired old argument against voting Green, which is that “they’ll never get in,” no matter how good their policies are. That’s certainly not going to fly today. You’ll have three ballot papers when you vote – and on the orange ballot paper, every vote cast for the Green Party across the whole of London will count towards electing more Green Assembly Members. In the last election, we won two AMs; this time, it could be more. Conversely, a vote for one of the larger parties on the orange paper could be wasted, because they will win more AMs in individual constituencies.

Trade Unionists in London can make a difference today. Whoever you decide to vote for for Mayor, you can vote Green on orange. By doing that, you’ll elect more AMs who will call for publicly owned, fully funded public services, and who will support the right of London’s workers to organise and fight for their own pay and conditions – and who will be proud to do so.

Read about more Green policies for London here – and vote today (5th May) between 7am and 10pm.

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