In a remarkable move, the annual Trade Union Congress saw major unions UNISON, GMB and UNITE, each with over 1 million members, launch a campaign for strike action on November 30. At least ten unions will be involved in this major alliance.
The University lecturers union UCU, Civil Service union PCS and two teaching unions; NUT and ATL took action in defence of member’s pensions on June 30 bringing many new activists onto demonstrations and picket lines up and down Britain. Young workers and women were highly visible on picket lines and marches.
Building on the success of that day, they will now be joined by the Scottish teaching union EIS, the NASUWT and Northern Ireland’s public sector union NIPSA as well as the big three. Both the Fire Brigades union FBU and Prospect are likely to ballot as well, while Prison Officer Association’s Steve Gillian told delegates that his members would walk out in solidarity in defiance of anti-union laws imposition of a no-strike rule on those workers.
This is a great step forward when the reaction of the leaders of the larger unions over several decades has been to do deals with bosses and government rather than organise to resist attacks on their members.
November 30 will mark a significant stepping up of the resistance in the war against the Tory plans to destroy the welfare state. There will be a great deal of organising to do to ensure the best possible turn out both in the ballot and during the action itself, but June 30 showed both that union members are ready to take a stand and that there is a great deal of public support for such a stance.
Cameron and his lackeys will continue to attempt to claim that this is about selfish public sector workers protecting their supposedly “gold-plated” pensions but this argument cuts little ice with most working class people. Those in the private sector have seen their pensions devastated and know that if the Tories succeed in further attacking public sector workers it will do nothing to improve their position
And indeed as the government continues to be vulnerable from a number of different angles – not least the continuing unfolding of the News International scandal, many people will not really notice why industrial action is being called – but rather be pleased that someone is heading up a fightback against this government which is determined to make working class people pay for their crisis – not to mention destroy cherished services like the NHS.
TUC’s Brendan Barber – not someone that Socialist Resistance has often quoted with approval- explained that the unions were preparing for ongoing action if necessary.
“Further consideration is being given to what further action may be appropriate beyond the day of action if progress towards a settlement is not secured,” he said.
Brian Strutton, the GMB national secretary for public services put it even more starkly “We are talking about throwing everything at it that we can, rolling into next summer. We are not just looking to nudge this along. We are assuming that this will be a huge set piece conflict running for a long time.”
All of this makes the timing of the Coalition of Resistance conference on October 1 even more pertinent than ever. Go to www.europeagainstausterity.org and register now if you haven’t done so