Socialist Worker

Strikes aren't a last resort

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2237

The government briefly delayed its attack on public sector pensions last week, saying it will wait until the summer to change them.

The announcement coincided with some bellicose words from the Tories about attacking the right to strike.

And it also came as union general secretaries discussed opposition to the “government of austerity” at a meeting at TUC headquarters in London.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, with his customary vigour, said strikes would be a “last resort”, adding that unions would work together to negotiate with the government.

Barber mumbled, “Unions will work very very closely together in responding to all of those issues including, as a last resort, in some circumstances, potentially industrial action.

“As a result of discussions, the government are now not intending to try and push through changes in public service pensions in the budget in March. They have proposed discussions that will take place over the next few months.”


In the face of such a threat, the government is looking at whether it needs to change the law on pre-strike ballots—something the cabinet office minister Francis Maude also said would be a “last resort”. Meanwhile Tory chancellor George Osborne blamed the unions for holding back Britain’s economic recovery.

He said the government was preparing to draw up contingency plans if there were strikes: “We are prepared to consider changes to the law around strikes—as a last resort.”

The truth of “coordinated action” is that the union leaders agreed coordinating, but not the action.

The TUC-called demonstration on 26 March is seen by some as an alternative to striking.

The solution is for every activist to throw their weight into building the protest.

The larger and more militant it is, the more pressure on the bureaucracy to call action. The more it is built from the bottom up by rank and file activists, the more it can give confidence to people to fight.

The scale of the attacks means that real determined resistance and building to a general strike must be our goal—and not a last resort.

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Tue 1 Feb 2011, 17:11 GMT
Issue No. 2237
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