Results are rolling in. This week saw magnificent votes from the Unison, EIS and Nipsa unions to join the strikes on 30 November. They show the mood out there. Workers are up for a fight.
The carping from government ministers about turnout levels is thoroughly hypocritical. The Tories themselves only won the support of 22 percent of those with the right to vote at the last election. Ministers have driven through anti-trade union laws that deliberately make it as difficult to win a strike vote as possible. In the face of all this, the latest results are a fantastic achievement.
Now trade unionists and activists across the country are fighting hard to win the remaining strike ballots at Unite, GMB, Prospect, NASUWT and others.
The latest government ploy is to pretend it isn’t bothered at the prospect of a public sector general strike.
Ministers claim they are “delighted” that unions have “fallen into our trap” by striking. But in reality the government is worried. It is pumping out anti-strike propaganda. Managers in education and health are planning to send out personal letters to workers begging them not to strike.
They are also trying to divide our side. Treasury secretary Danny Alexander claimed some union leaders were “hell bent” on striking, while others were willing to negotiate. He wants to isolate the more militant trade union leaders and suggest they are dragging their unwilling members into reckless action. The opposite is the case. Millions of trade union members are piling the pressure on their leaders to hold firm and not compromise.
That’s why so many were shocked by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and his moves last week to talk up a shoddy deal from the government. This wasn’t an offer—it was an insult. It didn’t address any of the main planks of the attack. People would still work longer, pay more and receive less. It was a crude attempt to buy off older workers—and it didn’t work.
Labour leader Ed Miliband should be backing the industrial action plans. Instead he has fallen in line with the critics, bleating that “the most important thing is there is not a strike”.
Barber’s attempt to derail the strikes should be a warning. His role in the bureaucracy makes him look for a compromise deal rather than lead a militant fight that can win.
The danger is that this drive to avoid strikes can pull the more right wing union leaders in his wake. Even if this doesn’t work it can still encourage officials to dampen the militancy of the day. In some areas activists have been told there is no need for picket lines. Others have been told to hold indoor meetings rather than march through town and city centres.
We need to ensure the opposite happens—the most militant sections of the working class reaching out and pulling everyone else behind them. That means the maximum involvement of every activist. Let’s see mass picket lines where strikers ask people not to cross, and mass demonstrations and rallies in every town and city.
We have three weeks to build the biggest possible momentum for 30 November and resist those who want to settle on the government’s terms.
A strike of three million will give workers a sense of their power—and it will show the way we can all win.
What you can do
- Set up cross-union meetings to bring union reps together. Plan mass leafleting to help win final ballots and united picket lines on the day.
- Organise feeder marches to meet in town and city centres to march together to joint union rallies.
- Sign up your workmates to the Unite the Resistance convention on 19 November.