Interview with RMT’s Eddie Dempsey: “If they arrest us on the picket lines, we’ll take it to the streets”
“This government is seeking to appease the British public. They want to criminalize dissent against poverty.
LFF interviewed the RMT’s deputy general secretary at the right to strike demonstration outside Downing Street last night.
As the government’s proposed minimum service bill passed its second reading in parliament last night, protesters took to the streets to express their anger at the legislation which aims to undermine workers’ ability to strike.
Eddie Demspey joined an impressive list of speakers calling for legislation that would see nurses, firefighters, teachers and other key workers potentially fired for striking for fair pay.
Those at the podium included Jeremy Corbyn, Zarah Sultana and Mick Lynch as well as other union representatives from the CWU, FBU, UCU and TUC, to name a few.
Dempsey spoke to LFF about the criminalization of dissent against poverty and said that if workers are prevented from picketing, they will take it to the streets instead.
“This government is trying to appease the British public. They want to criminalize dissent against poverty.
“This is not a left or right wing thing, it’s about the right of ordinary citizens to have a decent life and the right to live in a free society where we can take our work off. ”
Demspey believes that the government and the right-wing media have failed in their attempts to demonize union action because the public is fed up with pay inequality.
“They failed because you can’t win an argument with a public that is all suffering after years and years of lowering wages, of seeing profits explode, of seeing our public services underfunded and then gradually privatized.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years is that after most of the public sector and frontline workers who have kept this country going, most of them have gotten wage freezes.”
This comes amid new data from the ONS which revealed that wages had fallen by 2.6% in real time over the year.
“People have had enough and it’s time for the government and politicians to recognize that. There must be a fair deal for people.
He also highlighted the tactics already deployed by the government to limit strikes, including using taxpayer money to compensate employers for losses and allowing agency workers to come in and break the strike.
These unsuccessful attempts by the government so far to prevent strike action have led it to seek to change the law instead, says Dempsey.
“This is not just an issue about unions, it’s a fundamental civil liberty and human right.
“The right to protest, the right to withdraw from work, these are the basic rights that this government seeks to undermine and remove in order to protect the corporate interests that they represent. So we need to bring together a coalition of people willing to stand up for freedom.
“We can’t sit back and watch them take away our rights, keep people in poverty and destroy all our public services, we have to defend what is ours. ”
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch rallied the crowd with the evening’s closing speech, calling on politicians to stand up for socialism and for workers. He reiterated Demspey’s calls for collective action: “Let us fight and fight again for our future. See you on the picket line and see you in the streets.
Unions, including the RMT, are expected to take legal action against the laws, while the Labor Party has said it will repeal the legislation in government.
(Photo credit: Hannah Davenport)
Left Foot Forward union reports are supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust