More unions have called for strikes in March to defend public sector pensions.
Two teaching unions—the NUT and EIS—joined the calls for further strikes last week.
They join the UCU lecturers’ union, which had already called for unions to coordinate action and proposed 1 March as a possible strike date.
Meanwhile the Tory right has gone on the warpath. Headlines in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph this week used a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies to claim the government had made “concessions” to the unions over pensions.
In fact the report shows that raising the retirement age of public sector workers and the switch from RPI to CPI indexation will lead to “a substantial loss in generosity” of public sector pension schemes.
Leaders of all unions willing to keep fighting over pensions were set to meet as Socialist Worker went to press.
The PCS civil service workers’ union has said it would join any such coordinated action.
The PCS, NUT, UCU and Unite’s sector committees have all now rejected the government’s “heads of agreement” pensions deal.
The shift at the top of the unions reflects growing anger and confidence among rank and file workers.
Union recruitment shot up last year as some 2.6 million workers struck on 30 November (see Strikes build unions—fact).
Another major teaching union, the NASUWT, decided on Sunday against signing the “heads of agreement” document. However, it has not yet decided whether to back further strikes.
Unfortunately a couple of smaller unions—the ATL teachers’ union and the Ucatt construction workers’ union—have signed up to the deal.
They join the GMB and Unison’s local government sector.
The ATL trumpeted that over 91 percent of members had voted to accept the deal in a poll. But the union confirmed that the turnout was just 5.7 percent.
The prospect of renewed industrial action over pensions will be a blow to the government.
It had hoped to quash the revolt over the Christmas break. But workers still face later retirement and increased contributions for lower pensions payouts.
They are furious at being forced to foot the bill for a crisis caused by the Tories’ friends in the City.
A victory for workers over pensions would rip a hole in the government’s whole austerity agenda.
It would show ordinary people that they can fight the cuts and win.