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N30 – All out tomorrow!

Biggest strike since 1926 • Government on the defensive • Serious public support for strikes

Across the country trade union and anti cuts activists are getting ready for action. The biggest strike in Britain since 1926 will see between 2 and 3 million public sector workers take co-ordinated industrial action to defend their pension scheme. The coalition government, which supported the handover of billions to banks, presided over a growth of huge social inequality and wasted billions on aircraft carriers that will not be used – has decided that public sector workers must pay the price for their pro business and pro rich policies.

Francis Maude and Danny Alexander: have been leading the charge from the government to blame the unions for the disruption, claiming that the strike is “irresponsible and wrong”. Prime Minister Cameron has encouraged strike breaking by families and urged workers to cross picket lines.

Massive support

But they are losing the argument. A BBC poll published just days before the strike revealed that many people support the action – 61 per cent said the strike was justified, 67 per cent of women polled said they agreed with the strike and a massive 79 per cent of 18-24 year olds said they backed the strike. No wonder young people and women are supportive of the strike; the changes to pensions will all disproportionately affect them more in terms of length of working life and loss of pay.

The unions themselves returned overwhelming yes votes – over 60 per cent for most unions, the NUT led the pack by returning 92 per cent in support. Around 30 unions will be striking.

Government lies

The huge support for the strike is because the government has been shown time and time again to be lying about the alleged unaffordability of pensions. The hapless Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was exposed as ‘massaging the figures’ when he argued that public sector workers would be better off under the new scheme. In fact the Civil Service website online calculator provided wildly different results to Alexander’s claim that workers would end up with the same amount of pensions.

This is why the media is helping the government do its propaganda dirty work – with the barrage of front pages about so-called gold plated pensions. Considering many public sector workers pensions are around £6000 a year – that hardly sounds gold plated, especially when bankers like Sir Fred Goodwin have a pension pot of £16billion. CEOs of major companies still earn around £224,000 a year in pensions, compared to only £3,500 for nurses.

The ideological nature of the attacks becomes clear when the public sector reforms are compared to banking sector reforms. In short the public sector is being ripped up, torn down and kicked about in preparation for massive privatisation whilst the banking sector is carrying on as if nothing 2008 had never happened. This can’t be allowed to go on.

 

Economic reality

The fact is that Britain is in an economic crisis, the OECD has said that we are on the verge of another recession. There is a debt crisis but it has not been caused by public sector pensions but by the massive bailouts of the banks. The Credit Crunch threw a spanner in the works of he cheap credit bonanza which was at the heart of globalisation’s boom having a knock on effect in the wider economy. The question is not ignoring the debt (the right wing accuse the left of being deficit deniers) but of who will pay the cost of this crisis? The bankers and top corporations or the nurses and teachers?

Gideon Osborne is clear which side he is on. Public sector pay has been capped at 1 per cent for two years whilst inflation is at 5 per cent, this means a year on year pay cut of 4 per cent. This comes after a two-year wage freeze.

Now with commentators predicting a collapse in the Euro this is just a walk in the park compared to what they will throw at us if the European economy goes south. This is why a body blow to the coalition over pensions will set the stage for more victories in the future.

Broaden the struggle

Whilst the strike on N30 is focussed on the pensions issue – it can also act as a rallying cry to connect together all the struggles. A huge strike and mass demonstrations across the country on N30 could mark the beginning of a new phase in the struggle against the coalition – and put the working class back on the map as a force to be reckoned with by Eton boys Cameron and Gideon Osborne.

What next?

The next step has to be escalation in the new year. We need more than a one day strike, no matter how well co-ordinated it is. Two day and three day strikes can build up momentum for a real show down with the government. But crucially the private sector has to be included in this movement – the demand of decent pensions for all is a central one, because it can help tear down the media constructed barriers between the private and public sector.

Activists across the union and the social movement have to make the case for a general strike – not because it will happen on 30 November or even shortly after, but because we need to bring out more workers across the country in a struggle that can bring the government down. If anyone thinks that we can win simply by sectional or limited strikes in key areas then they haven’t grasped the nature of the bosses’ attacks against us. Quite simply they want to “do to society what Thatcher did to the economy” as Cameron promised in 2008.

We have to keep up the pressure and make sure that our union leaders don’t accept some rotten deal in the new year as we argue in Workers Power’s leaflet to the picket

So all out tomorrow, get to the picket lines, get on the demonstrations, organise work place meetings to discuss the next steps and lets get some grass roots union activism across our unions to take the struggle forward.

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