Doctors are set to take their first industrial action in four decades on Thursday 21 June to defend pensions. They will refuse all work apart from urgent and emergency procedures.
Unfortunately, other unions will now not strike over pensions in June. But this fight is far from over—up to one million workers could join a mass strike in the autumn.
The backdrop to this is the national demonstration against austerity called by the TUC for 20 October. This protest can be even bigger than the one on 26 March last year that attracted over half million.
The NUT and NASUWT teaching unions have agreed to call a joint national strike in autumn. The EIS and UCU education unions have voted to join the action (see page 6).
And the PCS civil service workers’ union is also set to join this strike. It has passed conference motions to consider escalation to two-day strikes and rolling sectional action alongside national strikes.
A national meeting of the Unite union’s health sector last week rejected calls to join the doctors’ action on 21 June. But Unite health workers are committed to joining the autumn strike.
Meanwhile a strategy document put forward by Unite officials aims to ramp up the union’s organisation of health workers.
Gill George, a lay member on Unite’s national health sector committee, told Socialist Worker, “this document marks a step forwards”.
It means the union is committed to defending its health members even if it has to act independently of other unions in the sector.
Local government workers, however, face a difficult scenario. Union leaders in Unison, GMB and Unite are all putting a deal to their members that will mean working longer to receive less.
Delegates to Unison’s local government conference this weekend have a chance to get the fight back on. They should back emergency motions that call on the union to reject the deal.
Backing off from June strikes was a mistake. Each time trade union leaders delay the action it wastes valuable momentum.
But the autumn strike has the potential to reignite the fight against Tory austerity plans—and the 20 October demonstration can be a springboard into more mass strikes later this year.