Socialist Worker

As TUC invites Cameron to speak, we need a fightback not paralysis at top

Issue No. 2208

In a remarkable outburst of appeasement, the TUC general council has invited Tory prime minister David Cameron to address its congress in September.

As the onslaught against workers gathers pace it is obtuse in the extreme to invite the cutter in chief to a trade union event.

And FBU union general secretary Matt Wrack says he was the only one to object to the invite.

While the tops of our unions are cautious to the point of paralysis, the class enemy is scheming.

The government plans to cut spending by £100 billion, freeze pay for millions of public sector staff and sack hundreds of thousands of others.

But Richard Balfe, Cameron’s trade union “envoy”, has suggested that pensions could be used as a “lollipop” to soften union anger.

He told The Daily Telegraph, “Public-sector pensions are like lollipops for kids. You decide what sort of lollipop you’re going to give, and then you work out how you are going to pay for it.”

He added, “Public-sector pensions will clearly be a very significant issue in the wider relationship between the government and the unions. I hope they can be persuaded of that.”

Balfe, a former Labour MEP, said that most trade union leaders would take a “pragmatic” view.

But some leading trade unionists are certainly talking up a fight.

Len McCluskey from Unite said, “We need to create an alliance of resistance because our members don’t want pay freezes, pay cuts and a tax on their services and communities.”

Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, says the government “won’t know what hit them” if it cuts services, pay or pensions.

The trade union leaders should call, and properly build for, a major national demonstration against the cuts.

But there is a problem. For instance in the British Airways dispute a vicious management is out to break union organisation and crush the workforce.

In response, the union leaders have issued plenty of warm words over standing up to the bullying bosses. But more than six months into the dispute, they seem determined over only one thing—not to call the effective action that could win.

There is a war going on but the danger is that only one side is fighting.

There needs to be an urgent shift to meet the scale of the onslaught against public services by the government.

That means building rank and file organisation to increase the pressure on the union leaders to call action and to act independently if they won’t. It means trying to get action against every job cut.

A test of commitment to fight the government and the bosses is whether you see the future as getting a Tory to the TUC or getting thousands to protest at the Tory party conference on 3 October, and to protests on 20 October when the government’s spending review is announced.

A big demonstration on 3 October can increase the pressure on union leaders to call the action we need.

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What We Think
Tue 29 Jun 2010, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2208
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