Socialist Worker

A million or more could strike in a few months

Coming disputes include firefighters, council workers, hospital staff and teachers, reports Charlie Kimber

Issue No. 2401

Unison members protested against the Tory conference last September - soon they could be on strike

Unison members protested against the Tory conference last September - soon they could be on strike (Pic: Guy Smallman)


There has been an important shift in the potential for a fightback by the working class.

The Unison union has announced that it will ballot local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for strikes over pay.

Other local government unions may ballot too.

The firefighters’ 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 are set to strike between 12 noon and 5pm on Friday of this week, between 2pm and 2am on Saturday 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.

Some 50,000 PCS union members at Revenue & Customs are to ballot for strikes over cuts.

And tube workers in London came out on strike for two days from 9pm on Monday. They are set to follow this up with a three-day strike from 9pm on Monday of next week.

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 from Monday of next week. 

And UCU union members at Lambeth College in south London were set to start an all-out strike on Thursday of this week.

Forced

The feeling from below over the scale of cuts in living standards has forced union leaders to move. 

Workers aren’t feeling the “recovery” that the Tories talk about.

There is now the real possibility to press for a strike of a million or more education, local government and NHS workers.

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.


Each successful strike will make it easier for other workers to improve their conditions.  

To support the strikes:

  • Invite speakers from the striking unions to your union branch 
  • Take a collection sheet for strikers round your workplace or union branch
  • Visit a picket line. Take your union banner if you can
  • Get trade unionists in your area together. Has Unite the Resistance arranged a local meeting with activists from different unions? uniteresist.org
  • Build for the People’s Assembly No More Austerity demonstration on 21 June thepeoplesassembly.org.uk

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