Focusing on the Causes

The weekend saw yet more protests against the cost of living crisis, the cost of fuel,gas and electric price hikes and the obscene and unjustifiable profits being extorted by the major energy companies.

The Workers Party was, once more, on the streets, demanding change and focussing attention on the causes of financial hardship, poverty in our society. This time at Belfast City Hall.

The major political parties at Stormont , Westminster and Dublin, supported by many mainstream media platforms, deliberately misrepresent the source of the crisis, which is anything but current.

Long before the war in Ukraine, long before the current wave of inflation and long before Brexit, families were going hungry, homes were going unheated and queues were lengthening at food banks. People with jobs were relying on top up benefits to help them make ends meet and the ‘working poor’ had become an accepted part of everyday life.

We are witnessing, and living with the consequences of, a capitalist economic system yet again in crisis.

Over a third of the population of Northern Ireland are living on or below the breadline. Child poverty tops 40% in several areas and fuel poverty is a reality for thousands of local families. Low pay, precarious employment and zero hours contracts contribute to mental and physical ill health. That has been the situation for many years.

Poverty is not inevitable and it is not a recent phenomenon. It is the direct result of an economic system that values profit more than people. 

Only a socialist society will consign poverty, deprivation and despair to history. That is a message the Workers Party will continue to send.

Enough is Enough

Workers Party members, headed by Party President Cllr. Ted Tynan joined the protest organised by the ‘Cost of Living Coalition’ in Dublin at the weekend.

Several thousand people took part in the protest in support of controlling energy costs, affordable housing and investment in public services

Cllr Ted Tynan condemned the “…shameful government inaction which allows continued obscene profiteering by energy companies on the back of the young and old alike – all of whom are facing the eat or heat dilemma this winter”.

“Nationalisation of energy companies is urgently needed”, he said, “in order to restore control of these essential assets and secure the welfare of households”.

Another demonstration against rising prices, soaring energy bills and the escalating cost of living will be held in Belfast next Saturday,1st October.

Organised by the Cost of Living Coalition campaign the protest will take the form of a rally at Belfast City Hall at 1pm

The Time for Public Ownership of Energy Resources is Now!

When it comes to discussions about the cost of energy and other utilities, there is always a missing and unspoken link.

Radio phone in shows, television news, social media platforms and any amount of newspaper articles will talk endlessly about ‘increases in wholesale supplies’. The ‘war in Ukraine’, ‘unexpectedly cold winters’ and ‘technical problems with pipe lines’.

What they won’t mention is that the natural resources which supply the energy and other utilities are all in the hands of private companies and individuals. What they won’t mention is that increases in prices are driven by profiteering and delivering dividends to shareholders.

Gas and electricity were privatised more than thirty years ago. Separate, privately owned, systems were established for supply, transmission and distribution and the ‘Big Six’ energy companies cornered the market, saw off any competition and established a very profitable monopoly. Consumers have been, and still are, paying the costs ever since.

Energy and other utility providers don’t operate as a public service. They exist to make and maximise profits.

The Government’s response to the latest hikes in home heating and other bills has been to offer short term and, in practice, woefully inadequate financial relief to consumers. At best this is a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.

The solution to the cost of utilities crisis is not in vote catching gestures but in bringing gas, electricity, broadband services and fuel into public ownership and public control.

The increased poverty, deprivation and mounting mental health pressures caused by the current cost of living crisis is being fuelled by the astronomical price hikes in gas, electricity and petrol. At the root of the problems lie the private ownership of the natural resources and their distribution and delivery chains.

We work for our public services. We use them. We pay for them. We must own them.

Highlighting Poverty and Social Deprivation  

The Workers Party has held a protest outside the gates of Stormont to highlight the appalling levels of poverty, social deprivation and the effects the rising cost of living is having on families and children.  

Party spokesperson and veteran trade unionist Lily Kerr said,
” We hope this will send a strong message to all those who think that flags, border polls and sectarian headcounts will pay the bills or put food on the table”.  

Politics and the media are dominated daily by petty disputes over ‘who-said-what’, what flag to fly, what title to give someone and who’s going to be the First Minister”, she said  

Meanwhile, in the real world, families are going hungry, children are going without heat and workers, as well as those people on benefits, are forced to use food banks to try and make ends meet”

Northern Ireland has higher levels of multiple deprivation than the rest of the UK with over a third of the population living on or below the breadline.

Low pay and inadequate benefits lead to poverty and of heat and food lead to mental and physical ill health

Computers and internet access are unaffordable for many families.
People are struggling with rent and mortgage payments
Some people are losing their homes.25% of children live in poverty
Fuel poverty is a reality for thousands of local families                                                                                                   
Poverty is not inevitable”, Lily said. “It is a direct result of an economic system that values profit more than people”.Only a socialist society will consign poverty, deprivation and despair to history, but we must make immediate demands and see immediate changes to improve people’s lives, health and futures” she said  

Our immediate response to the current crisis is a call for:  
better jobs with better wages
a more flexible working environment
higher pay for low-income families
strengthen and simplify the benefits system
invest in public services
an immediate universal fuel allowance
more public affordable housing   .

Fuel Rip Off

The energy sector must be taken into public ownership

On a pro rata basis, motorists in Northern Ireland are estimated to have been overcharged by more than £4.5 million pounds last month.

Despite the wholesale price of petrol dropping significantly, petrol retailers failed to pass that on at the pumps – ensuring a staggering level of profiteering.

Petrol is not the only energy source affected. The costs of gas, electricity, and home heating oil are also inflated by the privately owned companies which control the vast majority of the earth’s natural resources. 

It is time to tackle the myth that the market and “consumer choice” can provide a solution.

It is time to tackle the myth that the market and “consumer choice” can provide a solution. This model has patently failed. Lining the pockets of the capitalist class will only deepen the problems.

The energy sector must be taken into public ownership. This will help address exploitive energy prices, alleviate fuel poverty and assist in the battle against climate change.

Recent research shows growing support for the public ownership and control of energy supplies, as well as a range of other aspects of public life including transport, roads, education, banks, prisons, air traffic control and, of course, health and social care.

The public ownership and control of our key utilities and public services is not just a question of saving money on filling up the car. It goes to the very core of the type of society we have, its priorities and its principles.

Tinkering with the system is no solution.

These resources must be brought under public control and developed by a socialist economy. There can be no compromises, there are no alternatives.

Energy Costs: 5 Immediate steps

The Workers Party has reiterated its call for the Northern Ireland Executive to take 5 immediate steps to address the crisis caused by rising energy costs

The latest announcement of a 38% hike in gas prices comes on the back of higher oil, electric and petrol prices and the knock on effects to grocery shopping and the general cost of living.

any media reports and commentators talk of a ‘global crisis’ as if this was a natural phenomenon and beyond anyone’s control. It is not. Fuel poverty is a class issue.

The Workers Party proposals for 5 immediate mitigating steps are:

  1. Confirm an initial emergency fuel payment of £250 for every household
  2. Restore and secure the £20 Universal Credit uplift
  3. Initiate a comprehensive home insulation scheme
  4. Legislate for a Fuel Poverty Strategy to address current and future need
  5. Prioritise renewable energies over fossil fuels

The longer term struggles to protect and secure our environment, and ensure affordable energy for all, must focus on reclaiming the ownership of the world’s natural resources from private hands. It is here that the real battle for the environment must be waged. It is here that all our efforts must be directed.

Only when these resources are brought under public control and developed by a socialist economy will fuel poverty and a ravaged environment be a thing of the past. There are no compromises, there are no alternatives.