There has been an important shift in the potential for fightback by the working class.
The Unison union has announced that it will ballot 600,000 local government workers in England for strikes over pay. Over 70 percent of members rejected this year’s pay offer in a consultative ballot.
Other local government unions may ballot too.
The FBU union has also announced new strike dates for firefighters in England and Wales. The government is pressing ahead with attacks on workers’ pensions.
FBU members will strike between 12 noon and 5pm on Friday of next week, between 2pm and 2am on Saturday of next week and between 10am and 3pm on Sunday 4 May.
This follows a vote by teachers in the NUT union to strike in the week beginning 23 June – or at a date when they can coordinate with others. Health workers in Unison will be balloted for strikes over pay.
And Tube workers in London are gearing up to strike for two days from 9pm on Monday of next week. They plan to follow this up with a three-day strike from 9pm on Monday 5 May.
As well as national disputes there continue to be a series of highly political and significant local strikes.
Workers at Care UK in Doncaster have taken 20 days of strikes in just eight weeks. They plan to strike for 14 days next month. And UCU union members at Lambeth College in south London are set to start an all-out strike from Thursday of next week.
The feeling from below over the scale of cuts in living standards has forced union bureaucracies to move. Workers aren’t feeling the “recovery” that the Tories talk about. The Tories’ refusal to give some workers even a 1 percent pay rise adds insult to injury.
It is highly likely that 2014 will be very different to 2013 in terms of the scale of action. There is now the real possibility to press for an education/local government/NHS strike of a million or more.
This would be political dynamite, a sword against austerity and a challenge to the government. It would also be a positive alternative to the divisive ideas of Ukip and the racists.
Labour will also be put on the spot as to whether it backs these strikes.
The disputes are over huge political issues that many people will be talking about.
Workers everywhere should press to join the action alongside others. Holding collections for other strikers and visiting picket lines can help boost the mood of resistance in workplaces and unions across Britain.
The more solidarity and support for strikes, the more pressure on the union bureaucracy.
We want to work with union officials to win strike ballots and turn them into action. But we can’t let this follow the path of the pensions’ struggle in 2011 where union leaders choked off the battle.
That means looking for ways to put pressure on officials and develop rank and file networks.
The TUC demonstration on 18 October and the People’s Assembly demonstration on 21 June now take on even greater importance. Mobilising for them can pull wider layers of people together and help build solidarity for the strikes.
Everyone can do something. We need to fight to make the strikes effective and turn the potential for mass workers’ action against the Tory assault into reality.