By Nick Clark
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2811

Potential for a new wave of strikes to beat bosses

Workers in other industries have seen the success of the rail workers strikes and want to take action as well
Issue 2811
trade union striking barristers

Striking barristers gather in London

The rail strikes have added fresh fuel to the push for pay fights by many other workers. Teachers, NHS workers, airport check-in staff, telecoms, civil service and postal workers are just some of those who could soon launch their own pay strikes.

A ballot of telecoms workers in BT group—made up of BT, Openreach and EE—was set to end on Thursday of this week. They are furious after bosses imposed a pay increase of £1,500 without any agreement from the union. For every worker, that’s a real terms pay cut.

The workers’ CWU union says that, if the action goes ahead, it would be the first national strike across all of BT since 1987. CWU rep Eugene Caparros told Socialist Worker that the rail strikes had galvanised the campaign to win the ballot.

“It started with the rail workers, but this is going to spread because the pressures are the same for all workers,” he said. “Lots of our members were always up for a fight,” he added.

“But now they realise it’s a fight they could win. We’re only ­emboldened by what we see with other trade unions taking up the fight. “The rail workers have certainly given us all a bit more hope.”

Postal workers in Royal Mail also began balloting for strikes on Tuesday of this week after their bosses pulled a similar move. Bosses imposed a below-­inflation 2 percent “increase” earlier in June and also want to push through attacks on conditions.

CWU rep Adam Cochrane said, after visiting rail workers’ picket lines last week, that the campaign to build a Yes vote was “the easiest work I’ve ever done.” Even criminal barristers are ­fighting over pay—with members of the Criminal Bar Association —striking for two days on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Barristers struck and picketed over legal aid funding. They spoke of being paid less than the minimum wage for court hearings when travel and hours spent preparing are ­factored in. And they said they’re not paid at all when hearings are cancelled. And more strikes are in the pipeline. 

The NEU school workers’ union has said it will launch a consultative ballot asking its members if they’d be ready to strike over pay—and encouraging them to vote yes.  It says it could follow this up with a real strike ballot.

Civil service workers in the PCS union look set to begin their own strike ballot over pay in September. And NHS workers will again be told their annual pay rise will be less than inflation of between 4 and 5 percent—a massive real terms pay cut (see story, right).

Long-standing nurse and Unison union activist Janet Maiden told Socialist Worker the mood around pay has become more militant as the cost of living crisis bites. “Lots of people watched last week’s rail strike on TV and said, maybe we should be more like them. Some have gone further, saying, we should be out too.”

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