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‘Enough is enough’: Why workers and campaigners are protesting around the country

Campaign groups including Enough is Enough, Don’t Pay UK, unions like the RMT and CWU and climate campaigners have taken to the streets to demand change.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets over rising energy bills, runaway inflation, stagnant wages and the chaos Liz Truss’s new government has made of addressing the growing problems in the UK economy.

In London, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Newcastle, Brighton, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bristol, Norwich and more, people have taken to the streets to demand action from the government to support those who are struggling, not just line the pockets of the rich.

The Big Issue went to the rally at King’s Cross station, central London, to hear why people had come out and what they would like to see happen next.

Alexandra Considine, 53, Don’t Pay UK campaigner from King’s Cross

“I’m here today because this Don’t Pay UK campaign and trying to get the profits out of the energy companies is the most important thing for me right now. There are lots of other injustices going on but for me this is the campaign and the thing that’s hitting everybody in not just their pockets but their mental health, their physical health. We don’t know how I’m going to survive this. So this is why I’m here. To support everybody, myself, my family, my neighbours, everyone.

“In the long run I would ideally like the price cap — which doesn’t really make much sense now — to go back to what it was in January. That was just about affordable for some people. But even this £2,500 hike is not affordable. It’s a myth. It doesn’t really make sense because it’s not that the average household will be paying that, it’s that the average household might be paying that. It’s not what it is, it might be what it is. So it’s all lies. And what we really want is we’ve been calling for a windfall tax for the last two years now. The profit that the energy companies are making, if they just gave some of that to prop up the system we’d be in a better place as well.

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“Personally, the challenge is not having enough money. But also my children hare in their late 20s and they’re coming home to live with me because they can’t afford to live out any more. So my whole lifestyle has changed. I had these kids, sent them off to school, sent them to university, they’ve gone off, started their lives and now they’re coming back because they can’t afford to live outside. And where I live in social housing we have to pay service charge as well, so don’t forget that is going up and our rent is going up. So not just our bills but our rent, our service charge, everything is going up. It’s a triple whammy.

“We pledge to strike when we hit a million. I’ve already cancelled my direct debits. I did that in April. We need a windfall tax and we need the government to listen to us and we need to cap it.”

Robin, a campaigner with climate action group Fossil Free London

“Fossil Free London are here today because we want to connect with all the different groups taking action against this government and against corporate power, in our city and across the country and we want to stand in solidarity with workers striking for better conditions, for people who are suffering from higher energy bills and obviously for our comrades in Just Stop Oil who are trying to stop new oil and gas licenses which we’re 100 per cent behind.

“In the long run what we want is for for a real interconnectivity between different groups on the left so that workers and strikers and climate campaigners and people suffering because of the policies of this government  can unite together to form a single bloc. And that’s starting today.

“I’m renting and have a system where my bills are included. This  is deeply unusual for a lot of people obviously they’re paying super sky-high rental prices here in London, something groups like Acorn and London Renters Union and others across the country are trying to get people to join together in blocs to combat. But this is the system as it is.

“I’m currently looking for new housing and it is insane how much the rent is on small rooms in London. You add to that council tax, you add to that these incredibly, eye-wateringly high bills and people just can’t afford it. More and more people are moving out of London it’s just not affordable to live in the city anymore. And of course for so many people it’s not affordable to live wherever they are.

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“For me it’s about clawing back some of that space to say actually we do want to live in a habitable planet. And actually we do want to inhabit our homes and be able to avoid for to do that. And we’ve got to start there. And then if we can build power enough to push back against what the government is doing which is, almost unfathomable, then maybe we can start begin to collectively push for a better tomorrow. But at the moment we’re fighting over the dregs of today, to be honest.”

Matthew Lee, 43, RMT union rep

“For us in the railway this is about pay and conditions, it’s also about compulsory redundancy, so there’s a lot for us to fight about it here and we’ve got a lot of solidarity  from other unions and interested people. It’s a good afternoon.

“I would like some common sense to prevail and for some room for negotiation to find some compromise so we can get back to work and everyone can get on. I don’t enjoy being on strike, I don’t particularly want to be on strike. But there is no other option at the moment. So we just need people to talk.

“If you go shopping for food then you see the price rises and how dramatic they are. You see it in your fuel bills, you see it in your mortgage rates, you see it across the board. And it’s real and it’s visceral. You just can’t avoid it at the moment.”

Meghana, 31

“I’m here because the Tories are fucking everything up. I volunteer at the local food bank and the numbers have increased exponentially. You can really see that people are struggling. I personally am very privileged and I don’t really struggle… but I think it’s important to come out here to say that the system isn’t working for the many and show some support.

“I’m hoping there’ll be increased support for the bottom 50 per cent instead of just the top one per cent. I’m hoping the people taking to the streets  will refuse to accept the system that is working against them actively. 

“There are people really trying to make ends meet on minimum wage in London and feed their families. I have friends who don’t necessarily make a lot of money and they’re really struggling and thinking of not  putting on their heating and pinching every penny that’s possible. It’s really horrible that [people are struggling to pay for] heat, a basic human necessity, or water. Everything is under question.”

Mark Dolan, Communication Workers Union representative

“Today this is about all trade unionists coming together rand where we can take collective action to make our side a lot stronger because clearly there’s an assault on working class people in this country up and down the land. Attacks on wages, terms and conditions and it’s just not acceptable in a cost of living crisis.

“I’ve worked for Royal Mail for 43 years and personally, like everyone else, energy prices, cost of living, just daily general living has gone up. Enough is enough. Working class people have had enough and in the pandemic postal workers put their lives on the line trying to protect people. Our company made a lot of money and have offered us 2 per cent and it’s just not acceptable. It’s about time all workers got other and fight back and take on the government and the industries they work in.”

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