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Strikes on Saturday will show our power   

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Strikes and demonstrations will confront a Tory government in crisis
Issue 2824
CWU union picketline of royal mail workers waving pink union flags on strike for fair pay

CWU union pickets during the last Royal Mail strike in Vauxhall, south London(Picture: Guy Smallman)

It’s set to be a huge week of resistance, with protests, strikes and occupations all planned. Socialist Worker looks at who is fighting back.

This Saturday has to be a ­massive show of militant ­resistance and defiance. It will see around 175,000 ­workers on strike including in Royal Mail, railways and two key docks, And there are marches or rallies in around 30 cities and towns.

Everyone should take ­solidarity to the picket lines, and join the demonstrations.  The Tories’ declaration of ­intensified class war in their mini‑budget last week underlines what’s at stake. The government wants to break unions and push bosses to slash wages.

That’s why there have to be more strikes, escalating strikes and united strikes that fight to win. And winning means no more ­accepting pay deals less than the real rate of inflation or allowing job cuts and worse conditions.

The coordination between strikes this Saturday has to be built on a much bigger scale. Over 40,000 BT and Openreach workers are out for four days in October. The unions striking this weekend should join them. 

And that would create a focus for the whole working class to join the action on a weekday. This is not shadow boxing or a rehearsal. Millions of people’s living standards are at stake, and the whole direction of politics. Either the strikes win or the Tories will crush us.

Beating the Liz Truss regime requires escalation. One RMT rail union member told Socialist Worker, “It’s good to be striking again. It has been a long time since the last strike because they were called off due to the queen’s death.

“That gave the companies and the government a breathing space. “It’s clearer than ever that this is not going to be an easy win. The other side are digging in, not conceding. “Lots of us are now thinking we need a one-week continuous strike at least to get this over with.

It would be a real challenge because it would bring massive disruption. And it would be great if there were lots of other workers out with us.

“I’m not afraid that a long strike would be unpopular. I think people would see why we had to go out for longer. And in any case it’s important for us to step up action even if it’s not always popular. We need to win.”

Millions of workers including in the NHS, schools, universities and the civil service are voting now on whether to strike themselves. Strikes have to start as soon as possible. But union leaders can’t be trusted to build the fightback.

Last week hundreds of ­thousands of local government workers were taken out of the pay fight with the Unison union leaders not even making a recommendation to reject a below-inflation deal. Let’s make Saturday a launch pad for the fight that’s needed.


Union lets emergency call centres join the BT action

Workers at the BT Group plan to step up their strikes next week. After four previous days of strikes, CWU union leaders have called new days of action – and say they will also be calling out 999 call handlers who were excluded from the previous strikes.

It means that workers in all six 999 call centres—all operated by BT—will strike with other BT and Openreach workers on 6, 10, 20 and 24 October.

General secretary Dave Ward added that the union also planned more activities than in previous strikes—including a “an event where we’ll be asking our members to gather at a certain strategic point” during one of the strike days. 

Jas, a BT engineer, said he hoped a mass rally would boost the strike’s support and profile. “We need to get our message out loud and proud,” he told Socialist Worker. “It will be brilliant if we can get thousands of people there. And Jonathan, a CWU rep and Openreach engineer, said a rally could also strengthen’ resolve.

“Engineers can spend the day working in their van and not see anyone. And if they’re not on the picket line, can spend the day not going to work and not seeing anyone,” he told Socialist Worker.


Emergency! Get ready for 999 row

The media and the bosses will attack 999 call handlers who are due to strike soon as part of the wider BT action. Call handler Dearbhla McShane replied on Twitter

“If lives are lost when we strike it’s not our fault, or the unions. It’s the fault of BT and the CEO Philip Jansen who likes to claim that they can’t afford a pay rise despite giving himself a 32 percent pay rise. To £3.5 million.

“As a 999 call handler I’ve heard every sort of call there is. The screams and cries of people losing their loved ones. For us to be one of the lowest paid within the company is a disgrace and I’m glad to be finally allowed to strike.”


Postal workers can beat bosses’ new offensive

Royal Mail bosses have announced a major assault on workers’ rights and union organisation, amid a bitter fight over pay and working conditions.

The company’s top executives told senior managers last week of plans to stop negotiations with the union, and ditch the way reps have a say in the workplace.

They also want to scrap years of agreements that underpin workers’ pay and conditions.

It comes against the backdrop of bosses’ attempts to force through major changes designed to turn Royal Mail into a parcels company similar to Amazon or DPD—with similarly bad working conditions.

The CWU also warns that bosses have secret plans to sell off the company to investment firm Vesa, with plans to break it up and run down its letters delivery services.

Bosses already want workers to accept a raft of attacks—including worse terms and conditions for new starters—in return for a pay increase above 2 percent. But they’re furious that workers’ strikes and organisation have stood in their way.

Royal Mail workers have already struck for three days over pay and are set to strike this Friday and Saturday.

In a phone call with senior managers Royal Mail operations director Ricky McAuley complained that union organisation was the main barrier to bosses’ plans.

“CWU reps in every unit across the country seek to negotiate daily over time levels, resourcing, leave—it’s just not normal in most companies,” he moaned. 

Union activists know these are bosses’ first steps towards trying to break the union.

“The proposal is to effectively derecognise the union so they can attack the workers,” CWU divisional rep Paul Garraway told Socialist Worker. 

In an emergency video message to union members last week, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “These people are here to rip the heart out of your job, your terms and conditions.”

He added, “We will be escalating this dispute. We are in this for the long haul and we absolutely mean that.”

CWU assistant secretary Davie Robertson said the union would this week announce details of more action. Yet he also called for workers to have “cool heads” and said, in response to members’ questions, the union couldn’t call a work to rule without a legal ballot.

The bosses’ move shows they won’t back down in negotiations. They need to be met with a plan for longer, harder hitting strikes.


What’s it all about?

Network Rail and the train operating companies are offering no pay rise at all for some grades or at most 8 percent over two years—which is a big cut in real terms.

Bosses also want mass closures of ticket offices, huge job cuts including compulsory redundancies due to speed-ups and workers doing different jobs on different days.

Royal Mail imposed a 2 percent pay increase on its workers. Anything more than 2 percent would involve as assault on working conditions. Bosses also want to introduce different terms and conditions for new starters, creating a two-tier workforce.

BT Group imposed a £1,500 a year pay rise on all its workers. It claimed this was around 5 percent on average. That’s a big pay cut in real terms. The firm doled out £700 million to shareholders last year.


Enough is Enough plan protests across Britain
protest Just Stop Oil Enough is Enough Tory

Climate groups and Enough and Enough have called mobilisations on the same day (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The union-backed Enough is Enough (EiE) group called a national day of action for Saturday. The campaign has five central demands. It’s calling for a real pay rise, to slash energy bills, an end to food poverty, decent homes for all and a tax on the rich.

EiE had originally planned for protests in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds, Cardiff, Newcastle, Hull, Norwich, Nottingham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth.  

But after the Tories’ scandalous mini-budget, EiE announced the number of protests had doubled and pledged to release details later this week. It would have been far more effective to have set out the protest plans in advance—with time to build them properly.

The recent wave of EiE rallies would have presented a perfect opportunity to do just that. Activists that last week packed large venues in Luton and Birmingham could have been given wads of leaflets and posters to take away with them. 

EiE organised the biggest fringe meeting at this week’s Labour Party conference with people queuing around the block to get in.

For information about rallies go to wesayenough.co.uk


Just Stop Oil in action too

Climate group Just Stop Oil will begin an indefinite occupation of Westminster, in central London, on Saturday to demand an end to new oil and gas production.  A coalition called We All Want To Just Stop Oil—which includes Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project and Insulate Britain—will gather at points across the city, including on picket lines. 

Protesters will then march into the centre of London where campaigners plan to block bridges and hold “People’s Assemblies”.  Just Stop Oil is planning a mass mobilisation on Sunday and Monday. Organisers plan to gather at Downing Street every day at 11am and then march.  

The group says, “The time to stand by has passed, new oil and gas is an act of economic immorality.”

Climate groups joining with striking workers is an important step forward. 

Saturday’s mobilisation must be an opportunity to strengthen the idea that workers’ involvement in the climate movement is essential. 

For details go to actionnetwork.org


Protest at the Tory party conference 

Sunday 2 October, 1pm

Victoria Square,

Birmingham B1 1BD

Called by The People’s Assembly


Civil service workers start a national strike ballot

Civil service workers in every government office and department began balloting on Monday for strikes over pay and pensions. It could mean some 170,000 more people could join the fightback over pay when the ballot ends on 7 November. Activists in the PCS union have already been working for weeks to make sure that happens.

One PCS activist told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been talking to members for weeks. A lot of people have asked what striking would mean because they’re not used to it. But there is also a deep level of anger that I don’t think the government and senior managers understand.

“That’s partly at the lack of a meaningful pay rise, but also because civil servants are the people who kept the government and all its departments going through Covid and now we’ve been treated with contempt.

“So a lot of people have also been saying it’s not going to be worth coming out for one day—we need more than this. One person said we need to be out for a week to make it count.”

Speaking at a fringe meeting at Labour Party conference on Sunday, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “We are not balloting for a one day strike. We are balloting, if we win it, for sustained and targeted action to cause chaos to put pressure on the government.”

He also said he would aim to coordinate action with any other group of workers striking over pay. “If any union is planning a one or two day strike we pledge that we will join them,” he said.

Other pay strikes have already helped PCS activists to build support for their own ballot. The PCS activist said, “The other national strikes have raised our confidence. They’ve made us feel we’re not fighting alone. 

“People have heard about the strikes—everybody knows someone who works on the rail, or in the post, or the NHS or Amazon. Our members in Liverpool know about the dockers. They’re excited by the CWU and RMT fighting for themselves. 

“It’s made the prospect of us striking real.”

Nick Clark


Get behind these strikes

Fri 30 Sept

  • 115,000 Royal Mail workers in the CWU union
  • OCS Lancashire & South Cumbria health workers

Sat 1 Oct 

  • 115,000 Royal Mail workers in the CWU union
  • Over 40,000 rail workers in the RMT union at Network Rail plus 15 train operating companies
  • 9,000 train drivers in the Aslef union at 12 companies
  • 5,000 rail workers in the TSSA union 
  • Over 2,000 dockers and port workers in Liverpool and Felxistowe as part of longer strikes. The Liverpool strike continues until 3 October. Felixstowe continues until 3 October. Together they cover 60 percent of Britain’s container traffic
  • First Bus South West (Somerset and Cornwall)
  • OCS Lancashire & South Cumbria health workers

Weds 5 Oct

  • 9,000 train drivers in the Aslef union at 13 companies
  • Workers at Cross Country in the TSSA union 

Thurs 6 Oct

  • 30,000 Openreach engineers and 10,000 BT call centre workers plus 500 999 call handlers in the CWU union. The same groups will strike on 10, 20 and 24 October
  • Workers at GWR in the TSSA union

Sat 8 Oct

  • 40,000 rail workers in the RMT union at Network Rail plus 14 train operating companies

Mon 10 Oct

  • 30,000 Openreach engineers and 10,000  BT call centre workers plus 500 999 call handlers in the CWU union
  • Railway workers in Scotland will strike after ScotRail bosses offered just 5 percent

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