Enough is Enough: Zarah Sultana says Keir Starmer and Labour need to ‘pick a side’ in strike disputes

The Coventry South MP said there is a ‘cost of living crisis for the many, but a bonanza for the few’

A Labour MP has issued a challenge to colleagues in her party who have failed to back striking workers in recent industrial disputes, as trade unions and community organisations are mobilising to fight back against the cost of living crisis.

Zara Sultana criticised Labour’s stance on striking workers and picket lines at the launch of the Enough is Enough campaign in London earlier this week, where RMT boss Mick Lynch and CWU general secretary Dave Ward were also among the speakers.

This comes as the Labour group Momentum has launched a campaign to apply internal pressure on the party leadership to come out in support of pro-trade union policies.

‘Pick your side’

The Coventry South MP has been an outspoken critic of Sir Keir Starmer since he took over leadership of the party in 2020.

She is one of a number of MPs who has frequently attended picket lines in recent months and has previously accused the Labour leader of ‘waging war on the left’.

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Speaking at the launch event in London, Sultana said that some people in the Labour party need to ‘pick a side’ and understand that strikes are disputes between workers and bosses, not workers and other workers.

“There’s people in my party who need to understand when workers go on strike it’s not workers v the public, it’s not the Tube worker v the office worker v the firefighter. It’s workers v the bosses. Pick your side,” she said.

“We’re not going to take this anymore and we’re going to fight back, we’re here because this is the biggest assault on living standards on record.

“Energy bills, food prices, fuel: soaring. Wages: falling far far behind. We call it a cost of living crisis, but it’s not just that, it’s a crisis for our class not theirs.

“For them its record corporate profits, its a record number of billionaires and its record wealth for the top 10% - its a cost of living crisis for the many but it’s a bonanza for the few.”

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Labour for labour

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has faced criticism from many in the trade union movement over his stance on recent disputes, namely the rail disputes involving the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA.

This came to a head when former shadow cabinet member Sam Tarry was sacked from his frontbench role after attending an RMT picket line and giving media interviews in which he expressed support for real-terms pay increases.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery was among those who spoke out against the decision to sack Tarry, describing it as “a watershed moment for the relationship between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions in this country.”

As an apparent response to Labour’s stance on this and other workers’ rights issues, Momentum is to launch a new campaign urging greater support for workers involved in disputes.

Momentum is a group within the Labour Party which was set up under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to give a platform for left-wing and socialist MPs to coordinate their actions.

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As part of the Labour for labour campaign, the group is calling on the party’s leadership to commit to having Labour MPs back striking workers on pocket lines, call for inflation-proof pay rises and abolish anti-trade union laws.

The campaign launched with a rally last night (18 August), with Tarry, Jon Trickett and Dawn Butler among the speakers.