Socialist Worker

The pensions fight is back on

by Martin Smith
Issue No. 2292

The next round of action in the pensions fight has been called. This is great news for every trade unionist who wants to fight the government’s austerity plans.

D-Day is Wednesday 28 March—the date of the next strike.

The next round of action is supported by the NUT teachers’ union, the PCS civil service workers’ union, lecturers belonging to UCU, the EIS Scottish teachers’ union and civil service workers in Unite.

Other unions and sectors may join the action too. This means over 700,000 workers are now preparing to take part in the next phase of the battle.

The magnificent strike of 2.6 million workers on 30 November was a long time ago. If the new action is going to be successful then there are serious questions to be answered.

It’s a fact that many trade unionists don’t know that the action is back on. After Unison and the GMB pulled out, many workers wrongly believe the pensions dispute is over.

There is no time to waste. Everyone has to throw themselves into the fight.

All the unions in favour of the next round of action are now holding consultation votes. They are recommending rejection of the deal and support for further national and sectional action.

Official support will of course make it easier to win the consultations. But nobody can be complacent—we have to ensure the biggest yes vote for action is achieved.

That means section, branch and sector meetings must be built to put the case for action. Every member must receive the union’s publicity supporting the strike. And workplace leafletings should be held.


If this is done, the consultation exercises can help build the action and increase rank and file participation in the strikes.

Given that the strike on 28 March will be smaller than the 30 November action, some workers are worried that we can’t win.

The 30 November strikes were brilliant because they brought millions of workers out on strike.

But they contained an inbuilt weakness—the fight was always conducted at the pace of the slowest union.

That meant the gaps between the 30 June and 30 November (five months) and 30 November and 28 March (four months) were far too big. Momentum built up was lost waiting for the next strike.

We have to make it clear that strikes of 700,000 workers can beat the Tory government.

28 March is not intended to be a token strike, as Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, made clear in Socialist Worker last week. “There are fewer of us, so we need to do more, and at a faster pace than we did before,” he said.

This should be welcomed as a serious attempt to develop a strategy that can win.

The Socialist Workers Party has a number of members on the NUT, PCS Unite and UCU national executive committees.


They will be arguing for unions to draw up a plan of further national and sectional strikes in the aftermath of the 28 March.

They will also urge those unions to announce these plans before 28 March.

We believe laying out this strategy now will give confidence to workers and make it clear that the fight is serious.

Many public sector workers will now be involved in their third or fourth strike day.

The mood of those workers is going to harden as they make greater sacrifices. They will rightly expect other workers not to cross their picket lines.

When Unison general secretary Dave Prentis and GMB general secretary Paul Kenny signed the government’s “heads of agreement”, they betrayed their members.

On 28 March, GMB and Unison members in schools, colleges and possibly hospitals will be confronted by picket lines of workers who are fighting to save the same pensions they have.

The argument that you don’t cross picket lines has to begin now.

Across Britain union branches should be holding meetings to discuss how to make the action and picket lines as effective as possible and prepare local protests.

There is no time to waste—there is a fight to be won.

Unite the Resistance national conference: Saturday 28 April. London meeting: Thursday 15 March.

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Tue 28 Feb 2012, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2292
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