Some 1.4 million workers were set to strike together this week in an escalation of the battle against the Tories.
The workers—in the Unison, Unite, GMB, NUT, PCS and Nipsa unions—planned to walk out on Thursday of this week.
They are furious at government attacks on pay—and want to defend jobs, pensions and services too.
PCS member Patricia works in a job centre in Birmingham. “We’re not just striking over pay,” she told Socialist Worker. “It’s about everything.
“Terms and conditions are under attack. Young people are being hired on short term contracts. There’s no job security.”
NUT member Ralph teaches in a secondary school in Rotherham, south Yorkshire.
He told Socialist Worker, “Attacks on pensions, pay and conditions are taking their toll and more teachers are feeling the pinch. From talking to teachers from all walks of life I think they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
The Tories whined about turnouts in union strike ballots to try and undermine the action. It’s utter hypocrisy from a party that wasn’t even elected.
And contrary to their propaganda, workers report strong backing for the strikes. Kieran is a Unite member and local government worker in Sandwell. “It’s been well supported,” he told Socialist Worker. “I didn’t expect the level of support we’ve had.”
It’s not just the “usual suspects” either.
Unite member Ann Marie works for Portsmouth council. She told Socialist Worker, “A lot of people who don’t view themselves as political have been pushed to strike.
“They usually just keep their heads down—but the cuts have put people under pressure.”
Ministers Frances Maude and Michael Gove again threatened harsher laws to make it harder for workers to strike.
The action has the Tories rattled. Workers are discussing how to keep the pressure on. Sandra, a social worker and Unison member in Islington, north London, said unions should call more strikes.
“Some people worry about losing money striking,” she told Socialist Worker. “But it’s also because they’re wondering if there will be more than one day. I think we definitely need more than that if we want to break the pay freeze.”
There have been arguments among workers about whether unions are serious about winning. Ann Marie stressed that unions “need to cash in on the momentum of 10 July” and not limit the action to a one-day walkout.
Mick Keeley, a Unite member at Sheffield council, agreed. “This strike is a fightback against a government that hates public sector workers and wants to privatise us out of existence,” he told Socialist Worker.
“It’s got to be a sustained campaign.”
The strikes on 10 July will be a tremendous show of strength against the government. Workers in every union will need to organise to pressure their union leaders to build on the action and fight to win.
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Tory cuts and austerity are wrecking our lives...
The Tories are wrecking workers’ lives.
Sarah, a primary school teacher in Manchester, is fuming about plans to bring in performance-related pay in schools.
“My husband is a teacher too and we’ve just had a baby,” she told Socialist Worker.
“But we can’t afford to buy a house. And performance related pay means I could be on the same wages five or ten years down the line.”
Unison member Sabera Mulla is a school support worker in Kirklees, west Yorkshire.
She told Socialist Worker, “A lot of Unison members are single parents and earn less than the living wage.
“We’re sick of the pay freeze. People are having to sacrifice taking their children on days out because they don’t have enough money. They can’t do anything as a family.”
Paul, a firefighter in Manchester, said attacks on pensions put his future under threat.
“I joined on a pension plan that meant my family would be protected and they want to rob that from me,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I could lose up to half my pension. We can’t back down.”
...and we're not all in it together
Tory toffs David Cameron and George Osborne claim we’ve all been making sacrifices over the last year four years
There are 104 billionaires in Britain with an average of £3 billion each
The poorest fifth of people in Britain share less than a tenth of that—just £28 billion, an average of £2,230 each
The super rich parasites have seen their total wealth rise by £56 billion over the past year. This is partly thanks to the Tories slashing the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p. Where’s our share?
Firefighters call more action
Firefighters are set to strike over eight days from Monday of next week following their strike on 10 July.
Workers will walk out in a timetable of strikes lasting up to three hours each.
Riccardo La Torre, Essex FBU brigade chair, told Socialist Worker “We called for eight days all out—but this is a step in the right direction.”
Firefighters have been in a dispute with the Tories for three years.
They are fighting proposals to rob up to half of firefighters’ pensions if they are unable to work until they are 60.
“To go out with over a million workers on 10 July is vital for workers in our struggle.
"It’s about cuts, pay and austerity generally.
"Living standards are dropping and firefighters are being asked to pay more into our pension, which is likely to be stolen from us in old age.
"We are all feeling the effects. We have to stand up together.”