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Strikes are better than talking

Pausing strikes for talks can break the momentum of action
Issue 2836
strikes union

The CWU bloc at last year’s TUC union federation demonstration (Picture: Guy Smallman)

It’s not always good to talk. We often hear union leaders speak as if the point of strikes is to force bosses “back round the table”. Or that getting talks is a good enough reason to call off strikes. “We don’t want all this disruption”, they say, “but it’s the Tories and the bosses who won’t back down or compromise, not us.” 

The problem with this is that strikes become a bargaining chip only. We get a series of one or two-day walkouts followed by long breaks for talks that go nowhere fast. The momentum breaks and the bosses can recover. 

Then, if the goal is simply talks, the pressure is on union leaders to tone down or drop some of their members’ demands. We’ve had months of this in the rail and Royal MailAnd, in both cases, bosses haven’t budged an inch.  That’s because they’re determined to keep going until victory.  

We need the same attitude from our side. Striking to win doesn’t mean going out for one or two days to force bosses into talks. It means going out for however long it takes to force them to retreat. The aim is victory, not negotiations.  It means seeing all the strikes not as separate but related disputes, but as part of a united struggle.

When we do force bosses into talks, we want it to be because they’ve been beaten.  Then we’ll have something good to talk about.

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