The government is in a panic about this week’s public sector strikes. Ministers have spent the past week bleating on about the impact that the action will have.
They lashed out at strikers by threatening to withdraw their latest pensions offer, which treasury secretary Danny Alexander describes as “generous”.
In reality it’s an insult that would leave millions of low-paid workers paying more into their pension, working longer and receiving less. The idea that unions should be desperate to keep such an offer is a joke.
The Tories’ latest wheeze is to denounce the strikes for delaying hospital operations. This is sheer hypocrisy from a government that is cooking up plans to destroy the NHS.
Its spending cuts will delay more operations than a one-day strike ever could. Strikes will shut public services for a day. The government wants to shut many of them down forever.
The Tories would have us believe that public sector workers are “greedy”, striking only out of self-interest. But the strikes are about defending the whole working class. Older workers are striking for the rights of their younger colleagues.
Annette is a teacher and NUT union member in east London. “This strike is about protecting the people we teach,” she told Socialist Worker. “We don’t want the children in our classrooms to have to work until they’re 70 or 75.
“This is about more than just pensions—it’s about education and children’s futures. Some of our students were on the student protests last year. We’ve had a positive response from them about the strike.”
The Tories know the strikes have widespread support. A BBC poll published on Monday showed 61 percent of the public back the action. This figure rises to an astonishing 79 percent among 18 to 24 year olds.
That is why the Tories are trying every trick in the book to sow divisions among workers. They are also worried about the strike’s impact on “economic output”—bosses’ profits, in other words.
They’ve even threatened to bring the army into Heathrow airport. Their fear gives the lie to the idea that workers don’t have power in society or that strikes make no difference.
As Pura, a lecturer and UCU union member from Manchester, points out, “It took this to make them sit up and take notice. Before the strikes they were ignoring us. They say the general public will be against us—but we are the general public.”
Public sector workers are right to strike. They have put themselves in the forefront of resistance to this vicious Tory government—and shown workers everywhere that we can take them on.