IS THE mood changing? There is a growing feeling for action among public sector workers. This feeling is sharpest over pay and in London, thanks to the crazy costs of living in the capital. In every area the feeling is growing for united action linking different fights and issues.
Union leaders have been pushed to call some action. They now talk about a united defence of public services and the workers who provide them. But the union leaders have blocked the unity in action that would transform the situation. In the coming week a series of protests, meetings and strikes will see the chance for activists to build effective action. This could increase the pressure for the official united action needed.
- On Monday 850,000 council workers begin a ballot on strikes over pay. These Unison union members are demanding a 6 percent pay rise but have been offered just 3 percent. TGWU and GMB union members in local councils are to be balloted over the same issue. A successful ballot could see Unison members on one-day national strike on Wednesday 17 July.
- This Tuesday thousands of firefighters from across Britain will take part in a national demonstration over pay called by their FBU union. Mass meetings are taking place around Britain in pursuit of the pay claim of £30,000 for every firefighter. Their union's conference voted for strike action if there is no settlement of this claim by November.
- On Tuesday evening in the capital three unions have called an activists' meeting for workers in further education colleges and universities over pay. Lecturers in the AUT and Natfhe, and clerical workers in Unison will together discuss how to take the fight forward. Some union leaders are talking about a possible strike in September during the busy enrolment week.
- Also on Tuesday, staff at South Bank University in London are striking against redundancies. And a meeting is planned next week for workers on London Underground to discuss possible action against the government's PPP privatisation plan.
- On Wednesday and Thursday some 50,000-plus council workers in the capital are to stage a two-day strike over pay. This follows the successful one-day strike over the same issue last month. The council workers are fighting over London weighting, the allowance many workers get for the extra cost of living and working in the capital.
The same issue lay behind the one-day teachers' strike in London in March.
Lecturers in further education colleges were on strike right across the country last week demanding pay parity with teachers. Activists need to throw themselves into making each of the coming protests and strikes as effective as possible.
They also need to up the pressure on union leaders to deliver the united official action which could ensure every fight is won. Glimpses of solidarity were seen during the London council workers' strike last month. Activists need to fight for more such solidarity next week. That means London council workers sending delegations to join the firefighters' march in the capital on Tuesday.
And it means Unison members in schools and depots putting up picket lines next Wednesday and Thursday. Workers in the TGWU and GMB in manual depots need to campaign to win support from fellow workers to refuse to cross UNISON picket lines.