Socialist Worker

Tories won’t be toppled unless we push harder

Issue No. 2603

When many union leaders have meekly accepted cuts to workers’ pensions, UCU union members struck in defence of theirs

When many union leaders have meekly accepted cuts to workers’ pensions, UCU union members struck in defence of theirs (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Crisis after crisis piles on top of Theresa May. For all the moaning of right wing Labour MPs, the Tories lost the local elections in England last week.

The Tories’ racist immigration policies came back to bite them over the Windrush scandal.

When promises to get “tough” on migrants turned out to mean deportations and ruined lives, May’s close ally Amber Rudd was forced to resign.

And then there’s Brexit. Almost two years after the vote to leave the European Union forced David Cameron to resign, the Tories still haven’t healed their deep divisions.

But one lesson of last week’s election is that the Tories won’t collapse by themselves. They’ll keep trundling along on a broken axle until we give them a push.

A proper fight—involving strikes—could prove to be one crisis too many for May. That’s something to think about on the TUC’s national demonstration in London this Saturday. Some recent examples show just a glimmer of what’s possible.

The memory of the national strike by university workers earlier this year should still be fresh in our minds. At a time when many union leaders have meekly accepted cuts to workers’ pensions, UCU union members struck in defence of theirs.

After 14 days of strikes, bosses backed off—temporarily— from plans to force through a worse pension scheme.

Some 20,000 new people joined the union because of the strike, bringing the militant mood of the picket lines into union branches.

There was a whiff of that fighting spirit among Royal Mail workers last year. Mass gate meetings held by the CWU union showed how to organise.

Smashed 

So did the result of the CWU’s strike ballot, which smashed through the 50 percent turnout threshold and delivered a yes vote of nearly 90 percent.

That show of strength forced some major concessions from Royal Mail bosses. But the CWU could have won even more if it had called its members out on strike.

Even local disputes should give us some inspiration. In Newham, east London, recent strikes became a lightning rod for the fight against academies.

Academisation plans have been dropped at some schools, including at Avenue School this week after 19 days of strikes.

Each of these disputes had their setbacks and limitations—which just goes to show why we need action on a much larger scale.

The PCS civil service workers union could launch a national strike ballot over pay. That would be a step in the right direction. Other unions should do the same.

It’s not good enough—as some union leaders have done—to tell members to accept pay deals below inflation as the best on offer. Strikes can win on pay and pensions—and help bring this government down.

After we march this Saturday, we need to step up the action.


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