Socialist Worker

Unions under pressure to call further strikes

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2286

Union leaders met at the TUC last week and failed to make any call to take the pensions dispute forward.

At the same time the Unison union’s local government and education service group executives voted to accept the government’s outline deal on pensions.

The local government executive agreed to ballot the its membership. But this won’t happen until negotiations on the main points of the deal are finished in April.

However, Unison’s health executive voted to ballot the union’s members in the NHS instead of accepting or rejecting the offer now.

The ballot will take place in February, after the health executive has met again to decide whether to recommend the deal or not.

In the UCU lecturers’ union general secretary Sally Hunt has called for a ballot of members on the deal claiming the offer is “significant”.

These decisions are a blow to the magnificent unity of action expressed in the 30 November strikes.

In response activists across the unions are going all out to fight to take the struggle forward and get maximum unity for more action.

The government deal is no improvement on what was on offer before the

30 November strike.

Signing up means accepting the basic attacks the Tories want to drive through.

This was made clear in a government letter sent to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka readmitting the PCS union in to the talks.

It stated that in the talks, “You will not be able to raise the question of retirement age, you will not be able to raise the question of RPI, and you will not be able to raise the questions of contributions.”

Serwotka spoke at a Unite the Resistance meeting in London last Saturday (see below right).

He revealed that some union leaders who have signed the deal did not support the PCS being readmitted.

Freeloaders

“Two union leaders essentially said they paid the price for getting into talks—why should we have freeloaders who have not given anything up to be allowed to come in to the talks?” he said.

The NUT and PCS unions are right to reject the lousy deal. But time is of the essence.

Workers who struck on

30 November need to know the struggle is going forward. Waiting can mean the momentum is lost.

Those unions that have refused to sign up need to lead the way and put out an urgent call for the next round of strikes.

Yet those leaders who have been at the forefront of the fight are now saying they need more time to get organised and win other unions to carry on fighting.

Serwotka argues that he also wants to win an argument for “harder hitting” united action.

But a minority of unions can still have a huge impact.

The successful 30 June strikes put pressure on other unions to join the larger 30 November strikes. Then the left was making the running.

But this process is now going in reverse—the union leaders who have withdrawn from further action are pulling the more militant unions into hesitation.

A new strike call can offer a pole of attraction for those wanting to resist the Tories.

If teachers put picket lines outside their schools, many Unison members they struck with in November would refuse to cross them.

This can then turn the pressure back onto the other union leaders to get back into the fight.

Activists in every union need to campaign to put maximum pressure on their leaders to reject the deal and organise more action.


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