Socialist Worker

This is why it’s right to strike on 30 November

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2276

In Birmingham, Unison joined the last round of united strikes on 30 June (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

In Birmingham, Unison joined the last round of united strikes on 30 June (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

The battle lines are being drawn for the biggest confrontation yet between workers and the Tory-led government.

More than three million are set to strike on 30 November over the Tories’ plans to raid their pensions.

Unison is the union with the largest number of members involved in the strike plans.

It was due to announce its ballot results this week—and was expected to deliver a yes vote.

Scottish teachers in the EIS union were set to hear the result of their ballot too.

Government ministers hate the growing resistance to their cuts, and striking workers will face a barrage of propaganda against them.

Here are just a few of the arguments we can expect to be thrown at strikers over the coming weeks.

Aren’t the strikers just being greedy?

The greed in our society is lodged very firmly at the top.

Figures released last week showed directors of the FTSE 100 top companies have seen their pay leap by 49 percent since last year.

They now pocket an average of £2.7 million a year.

A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research confirmed this picture of rampant and widening inequality.

It shows the top 1 percent racing ahead of the rest of us.

Between 1977 and 2002 their weekly pay rose 68 percent faster than that of the “median earner”—the person in the middle of the wages range.

And that’s not even counting bonuses.

Ordinary workers are not being “greedy” for wanting a decent pension. They are just demanding what is rightfully theirs—and has been taken from them by the bankers and bosses.

Won’t going on strike just make a bad economy worse?

The economic situation is going to get a lot worse for ordinary people if we don’t take sharp action now against the government’s cuts programme.

The unemployment rate for young people is already at 23 percent—its highest level for nearly two decades.

And the cull of public sector jobs shows no sign of abating.

In March the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility predicted that 20,000 public sector jobs would go this year.

In fact over 100,000 posts were lost in April, May and June of this year alone.

Ministers now privately admit that 600,000 public sector jobs will go by 2016.

If workers don’t stand up to the Tories now, it will mean untold economic misery for the vast majority of society.

Isn’t it unfair that public sector pensions are ‘gold-plated’?

Private sector pensions may often be worse than public sector ones, but that is an argument for levelling up, not levelling down.

Companies have taken advantage of weak unionisation in the private sector to raid their workers’ pensions and drive down their pension entitlement.

Pensions are deferred wages—so these changes in practice amount to wage cuts.

Turning this situation around will require unity and solidarity between private and public sector workers.

If public sector workers successfully defend their pensions, it will make it easier for private sector workers to challenge their own bosses.

Won’t striking in vital public services hurt ordinary people?

The damage to public services if the cuts go ahead will be far greater than any pain from strikes.

The Tories want to tear apart the NHS and the welfare state. They want to move towards a US-style model where ordinary people have to take out loans to cover their basic needs.

We need to take drastic and urgent action to stop this agenda in its tracks.

That means, at a minimum, demonstrating our power by taking mass strike action to bring the system to a halt.

That’s why teachers, healthcare workers and other public sector workers will strike for all of us on 30 November—and why we should back them.

Spot the gold-plated payout

Mick Davis, boss of mining firm Xstrata

  • Paid £18 million this year
  • Pension: est £2 million a year
  • Pays nothing: pension pot is 160 percent of salary
  • Came out to back the Tories before the election

Average worker in the civil service

  • Paid around £17,000
  • Pension: £4,000 a year
  • Pay more: extra £240 a year
  • Work longer: May not be able to retire until 68
  • Get less: £80,000 total loss

Unite the Resistance
Saturday 19 November, 10am to 5pm,
Royal Horticultural Halls, 80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE. Tickets £5 waged/£2 unwaged

Get your union branch to sponsor the convention
Bring a delegation and sign up now

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