Last week was a busy one for protests.
I joined the Canadian United Steel Workers' (USW) demonstration organised by Workers Uniting, a coalition between the USW and Unite.
The protest took place outside Rio Tinto’s Annual General Meeting, against the company's appalling treatment of their workforce, who have been on strike for nearly a year.
They were joined by Unite members locked out by the Austrian owned Bootle-based packaging print firm Mayr-Melnlof Packaging whose customers include Kelloggs.
MMP by-passed legal niceties that require employers to consult with the union and closed the site leaving 140 permanent workers outside the gates with no idea what the future holds.
Remploy workers across the UK have also rallied and demonstrated against government proposals to shut down 54 Remploy factories shoving over 1,700 disabled workers into unemployment.
The mood was defiant at the London event where, despite torrential showers, Remploy trade union stewards spoke of their determination to fight the closures. The slogan, ‘Maria Miller, Factory Killer’ just about summed up the disgraceful approach taken by the so-called Minister for Disabled People.
Talking to workers from both MMP and Remploy it was clear their struggle to fight job cuts is deadly serious. For different reasons both groups are in danger of sinking without trace in the 2,666,000 UK pool of unemployed workers.
Labour market statistics show claimant/vacancy ratios as high as 31.1 in West Dunbartonshire and 20.8 in Haringey. For the fifth month running there were more than one million women unemployed -1,126,000 the highest number since records began in 1962.
Some say ‘the best things in life are free’ and many people may relish the idea of a break from work. Yet anyone who has experienced unemployment when joblessness is at the levels we see today knows the value of their wage.
Aside from the basics – housing, food, fuel, gas and electric all of which are increasing - other expenses have to be met. Families with school age children face increasing school uniform costs, payment for educational trips and activities that are no longer free such as swimming lessons.
The ripple effect of job cuts is huge. The impact damages individuals, their families and the communities reliant on us all spending money in local shops and businesses.
As May Day approaches it’s worth taking a bit of time out to think about the importance of the slogan ‘unity is strength’.
With a government addicted to austerity and global corporations determined to move production where labour is cheaper and preferably non-unionised Remploy and MMP workers are entitled to demand our support.