Three million workers are set to strike on 30 November. They have the power to transform the political situation in Britain.
The Unison union is balloting its 1.1 million members—the biggest ballot in trade union history.
The ballot is now into its second week.
Unison is joined by the Unite union, which sent out ballot papers to its 250,000 public sector members this week. And next week the GMB union will launch its vote too.
Michael Grisenthwaite is a mental health worker and Unison member in Leicestershire.
He has found that people are more open to joining the union than they have been for years.
“I went to three of the bigger work sites and over three days recruited eight workers to Unison,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Most were under 35 years old. The majority had never been in a union, nor knew anything about what unions do.
“Yet they were more easily engaged in talk about politics—from pensions, to Libya, NHS privatisation and the bankers’ mess.”
His experience is not at all unusual.
The fight is officially over pensions, as that is an issue all the public sector unions can unite behind.
The Tories want to impose drastic changes to public sector pensions.
The changes would see workers paying in more each month, working for longer and getting less when they retire.
On top of pay freezes or cuts, this could drive many workers out of pension schemes altogether.
These attacks are bad enough. But for lots of workers, the strikes on 30 November are about much more.
It is a fight against the Tories’ whole austerity agenda—a fight for hundreds of thousands of jobs and for the future of public services.
Across the trade union movement, unions are preparing to join the action.
Unions that have already won votes are committing to the date.
That is why so many are joining unions—because they want to be part of that fightback.
But the first battle we have to win is to get out the yes vote across the unions.
We need the biggest possible turnout. We need to fight hard for every vote.
Lots of workers stress that the anger over the government’s assault is widespread. It isn’t limited to the “usual suspects” who regularly support strikes.
“The people I spoke to, to a man and woman, said they would be voting yes in the ballot,” said Michael.
“That is the experience of many. But the important thing is getting out there to speak to them.”