Socialist Worker

The private sector is fighting back too

Issue No. 2109a

Mainstream papers like to say that trade unionism only has influence in the public sector.

This is nonsense. Workers from diverse parts of the private sector have already taken, or are about to take strike action, and many have won significant improvements in their pay as a result.

These include workers in oil refineries in Scotland, Shell tanker drivers and now distribution staff at the Argos retail chain.

Another common myth is that public sector workers are cushioned from the low pay and harsh conditions of the private sector. But a glance at recent pay settlements shows a different picture.

In the last three months workers in manufacturing industry have accepted pay rises that average 3.8 percent, according to analysts at Income Data Services.

In the same period workers in the public sector got just 2.7 percent.

Both figures are below the RPI measure of inflation.

By using their union muscle, some workers have managed to win significant improvements.

Last month tanker drivers working for Shell smashed the hard line on pay taken by their bosses by taking effective strike action. This caused the Sun newspaper to complain that “bosses waved the white flag, dished out a 14 percent rise and signalled to every hard-up worker that industrial muscle works”.

For once the Sun was right!

Gordon Brown urges private sector bosses to be as tough on pay settlements as his government is.

He wants an assault on all working class living standards in order to maintain profits.

It is imperative that we seek unity between all workers who are fighting for decent pay, pensions and conditions – regardless of who employs them.

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Article information

Tue 15 Jul 2008, 09:34 BST
Issue No. 2109a
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