Socialist Worker

Strike ballot begins for over a million workers

Issue No. 2272

Unison members at the anti-Tory protest last week
 (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Unison members at the anti-Tory protest last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Ballot papers will go out to over a million members of the Unison union this week.

It is the first of the big unions to launch its ballot for strikes on 30 November, when up to three million workers will walk out.

Across the union, members are preparing to throw everything they’ve got at winning the ballot.

“We have decided to ballot so now we have to go for it,” Unison Rotherham health branch chair Alan Daw told Socialist Worker on the march against the Tories in Manchester (see page 4).

He added that the union has organised a joint meeting with the Unite and GMB unions.

“We are confident we’ll get a yes vote,” he said. “But I don’t want it to be used as a bargaining ploy. We have to go out.”

Anita Heaton, a member of the Rotherham health branch, added, “We are dedicated to what we do. But if the only way is to strike, then we will.”

Trevor Voyce, a Unison rep in South Manchester teaching hospitals, said the union is holding mass meetings in the hospital auditoriums.

“They’re not just for Unison members, they’re for anyone who wants to attend,” he said.

“It can be difficult to mobilise in the NHS but the meetings are going really well.”

He added that he is being asked for union membership forms three or four times a day—and so are other reps.

“People are worried, not just about themselves but about the NHS,” he said. “We fought for it, we won it—we can’t let them take it away.”

Won

If the yes vote is won, the Unison members will walk out alongside workers in the PCS, NUT and UCU unions among others.

These unions struck on

30 June and are committed to striking again on 30 November.

At Barnsley College, UCU members not only joined the June action but were to strike this week over compulsory redundancies (see page 15).

“It’s all connected—it’s all about the cuts,” said joint branch secretary Lee Short.

“We’re having an increase in people joining the union. They’re realising if they want to defend themselves we have to make the unions strong.

“It’s about building resistance at branch level and nationally. People are completely behind the idea of resisting.”

The London region of the UCU this week passed a motion calling on the union to campaign under the slogan “All out, stay out”.

The huge Unite and GMB unions are also set to ballot in the next few weeks.

Lorraine Winson works as a housekeeper and is a GMB shop steward in Windermere.

“We’re not being balloted yet, but it’s in the pipeline,” she said. “We’ll be out. It’s time to stand up and be counted.”

Many other unions are considering joining the action too—including the firefighters’ union, the FBU.

Gary Keary is the brigade chair of the FBU in Manchester. “I’ve gone to lots of branch meetings,” he said.

“In some of them workers are voting by 99 percent to back resolutions calling for industrial action.”

The strike has the potential to change the climate.

“On 30 November we want to shut this country down,” said Andy Cunningham, a Unison rep at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“Either we break this government or they break us.”

It is a popular message.

“We’re on the edge of the biggest strike for 80 years,” said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

“If they carry on after 30 November we have to strike again and again until we win.”

‘We need coordinated industrial action. If you want to call that a general strike then

so be it’

Len McCluskey, Unite union general secretary


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Tue 4 Oct 2011, 18:02 BST
Issue No. 2272
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