A quarter of a million workers in the PCS union could be on strike within days.
The civil service workers voted by 61 percent for strikes to defend their pay, pensions, jobs and terms and conditions (see here).
A PCS strike would be something that everyone who hates the government could get behind and support.
But we also know that resistance to the Tories should be much bigger.
Many union members have found the last year incredibly frustrating.
We’ve gone from 30 November 2011, when 2.6 million struck, to a situation where the level of struggle isn’t matching what’s needed.
There’s a lot of good rhetoric about taking on the Tories. But there’s a huge gap between what we need and what is being called.
This isn’t to say there is no struggle. There are lots of bitter and militant localised strikes.
These include Tesco drivers, tanker drivers at Grangemouth, school strikes, the strike by health workers in Yorkshire and walkouts at Halesowen College over victimisations.
When people are called on to take action, they fight back. The same is true of when people are called onto the streets—as we saw in the 25,000-strong protest in Lewisham, south London, over health cuts, for example.
The truth is we need more organised resistance to the government.
A PCS strike could be a focus for everyone to get behind and give some momentum to the struggle in general.
As Socialist Worker goes to press it isn’t clear what action the teachers’ NUT union will call against the attacks on their pay and conditions.
But it’s clear that there’s a push for unions to respond to these attacks.
Local government workers in the Unison union have rejected a 1 percent pay offer.
Lecturers in the UCU union recently voted to fight over pay.
The lack of action being called can lead to a feeling of powerlessness and pessimism. But activists can’t afford to be pessimistic.
We need to fight to turn union leaders’ rhetoric into action.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has a lot of good fighting talk.
We can see that workers in his union have the power to win from the recent strikes at Grangemouth.
But what about Remploy?
Strikes and occupations involving Unite members during the Paralympics could have defended Remploy jobs.
This is why the campaign for Jerry Hicks to challenge McCluskey is important.
It can help put pressure on union leaders and raise arguments about what kind of fight we need. It was a hard fight to get the strike on 30 November called.
There was a process running up to it that saw a strike by sections of workers on 30 June. But union leaders did call the strike and it was the biggest Britain has ever seen.
The organised working class became a focus for other campaigners, such as students and activists from UK Uncut. The same can happen on budget day. If PCS workers strike we can unite workers with people fighting welfare cuts.
That strike showed we can get action called. The question now is how do we build up rank and file workers to put more pressure on union leaders to get more strikes?
We can’t simply rely on the best union leaders to deliver struggle.
The strikes on 30 November provided a huge opportunity.
But pressure from Labour and the right in the unions pulled the plug on the struggle.
Even the best union leaders failed to drive the pensions fight forward.
We need networks of solidarity to push forward and that’s why Unite the Resistance is important.
Developing these networks means that if a group of workers strike, they won’t be alone.
We need to rebuild a culture of solidarity across the working class that can make our side stronger.
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