Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2302

Strikes can beat austerity

This article is over 9 years, 8 months old
Public sector workers are fighting for pensions—and for bigger strikes
Issue 2302
On strike in Birmingham—a mass strike on 30 November last year won huge support (Pic: Geoff Dexter)
On strike in Birmingham—a mass strike on 30 November last year won huge support (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

The crisis-ridden Tory party will be hit with a public sector strike over pensions on Thursday of this week.

It has been almost six months since the magnificent strike of 2.6 million workers on 30 November last year. But Thursday’s action shows that the fight isn’t over.

The Tories want to impose worse pensions on millions of public sector workers.

According to the mainstream media, this week’s strike is all about immigration workers at Heathrow.

It’s true that the Immigration Services Union, which is not affiliated to the TUC, will be striking.

But the bulk of Thursday’s strikers do all sorts of vital jobs. They include nurses, cleaners, maintenance staff, speech therapists, health visitors, porters, civil service workers, lecturers and transport workers.

Gwyneth, a health worker in Bristol, told Socialist Worker, “In my workplace, many of us have never been on strike.

“We had a joint union activists’ meeting last week inside the hospital. It was really confidence building.

‘This strike has to be a stepping-stone to further, wider strikes. Each walkout helps build our confidence to escalate the fight.”

Votes in the unions have shown that there is a mood among workers to keep fighting.


Protests and rallies on the day can be a focus for people’s anger.

In London, a main demonstration will march from St Thomas’ hospital to a central rally in Westminster.

Norma, a health visitor in Waltham Forest, said her branch had decided to join the rally.

“It’s right opposite parliament,” she said, “and we really need to make a blast about this strike.”

Lots of civil service workers in the PCS union are relieved to be striking again. Many reported strong support for picket lines.

Workers in the Department for Work and Pensions in Liverpool are fighting to link their battle to save jobs with the pensions dispute.

Thursday’s strike will show the potential to beat the Tories.

But it should have been bigger. Unite is not calling out all of its health workers on strike.

The NUT and NASUWT teaching unions aren’t joining the action.

And the biggest public sector union, Unison, won’t be out.

Health workers in Unison voted to reject the Tories’ pensions offer and keep fighting in a recent ballot.

This was despite the union leadership’s failure to recommend how workers should vote or to campaign during the ballot.

Ian McKendrick from Unison Oxfordshire Health branch spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. He said, “Our branch committee strongly recommended a rejection of the deal. We are very disappointed at our national leadership’s failure to do the same.

“Lots of people have contacted me asking if we’re coming out on 10 May. They expected to be part of the strike.

“Every branch should send messages to our union leadership—respect the vote and call the next action.”

The NUT, PCS, and UCU all have policy for another national joint strike at the end of June.

Workers in every union must pile the pressure on their union leaders to name the day and join future action.

Votes show the mood to fight

PCS union members will strike nationally. So will UCU members in the TPS pension scheme. Civil service workers in Northern Ireland in the Nipsa union will strike too.

Health workers in Unite will strike in many places. But the union’s leadership says that not all health workers will strike.

Unite members in the Ministry of Defence will also strike as will RMT union members in the Royal Fleet Auxillary.

Recent votes in consultations show the mood to fight:

  • NUT—95 percent rejected the attacks
  • PCS—90 percent rejected the attacks
  • Unite health—94 percent rejected the attacks
  • Unison health—50.4 percent rejected the attacks
  • UCU—83 percent rejected the attacks

Their profit, your loss

The Tories claim that they have no choice but to cut ‘gold‑plated’ public sector pensions. In reality it’s the Tories who are gold-plated:

  • Most public sector pensioners get less than £5,000 a year
  • Tory minister Francis Maude will get £43,825 a year, according to the Unite union
  • Chancellor George Osborne will get £32,978 a year
  • Senior directors of top British firms get an average of £333,000 a year
  • The Tories want workers to pay for a bosses’ crisis

Join the London protest—assemble at 12 noon at St Thomas’ Hospital, central London SE1 7EH

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance