Socialist Worker

Step up the fight to win decent pay

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2119

The pay revolt against Gordon Brown’s government can win.

There is a real potential for combined strikes and united action that could transform the political landscape of Britain.

There is a burning anger at the government’s below inflation pay curbs that mean a cut in wages for millions. Brown’s crackdown is part of his long term strategy to restrain workers’ pay.

He is trying to impose between 1.9 and 2.5 percent pay “rises” on millions of workers in the public sector.

New figures released this week show that the government’s preferred measure of inflation has reached 4.7 percent and the measure traditionally used in pay negotiations is 4.8 percent.

The Office for National Statistics said, “The largest upward pressure came from housing and household services due to a rise in average gas and electricity bills… there were further large upward pressures from food and non-alcoholic beverages.”

But one thing is not going up – pay. Soaring fuel, energy and food prices means that people are debating whether to cut back on food or heating.

People are rightly fearful of the arrival of recession. But they are also angry that the government is determined to make them pay for economic turmoil.

That’s why hundreds of thousands of people are gearing up to take on Brown’s attacks. The next step in the fight is set to take place next week.

Battles

In Scotland 150,000 local government workers will strike for the second time on Wednesday of next week. This will be united action by Unison, Unite and GMB union members.

The day before will see strikes in Scotland by 1,650 members of the PCS union in the Courts Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Sportscotland and the National Museums of Scotland.

There are major battles coming up. The PCS is about to ballot its 270,000 members in the civil service for action. Some 250,000 teachers in the NUT union are also set to ballot for strikes.

Activists need to push hard to get yes votes and push for joint strike days.

Over 500,000 local government workers in the Unison and Unite unions and 30,000 college lecturers in the UCU union could all join action in November.

There is also growing pressure in the private sector for decent wages.

Workers are under coordinated attack from the government and there needs to be a coordinated response.

If workers fight together they can break Brown’s plan. The Labour government is weak.

The TUC backs coordinated action, a national demonstration and joint days of action. It should call the first day of action to coincide with public sector strikes.

That could provide an opportunity for groups of workers to hold protests, rallies and strikes on the same day. That would be a major step forward.

Activity

But it depends on union members ensuring that people are drawn into activity in every workplace. Every local government union branch could come out on the day. NHS workers facing cuts, privatisation and low pay could join them.

Postal workers facing attacks over their pensions could throw themselves into the day.

We need to step up rank and file pressure to turn the union leaders’ words into action.

The meetings being organised under the Public Services Not Private Profit banner around the country provide one opportunity for activists to come together to discuss pushing for action.

The pay revolt provides workers with their best defence against the recession and the government. It needs to be fought for in every workplace.


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