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Bureaucrats crawl away from the battlefield

Union leaders across the public services have called off many of their planned strikes in the run-up to the TUC’s “Britain needs a pay rise” demo.

In a matter of just a few days, the union leaders managed to tear up their own flawed battleplan for smashing the pay freeze.

First to tear up their mandate to strike were Unison, Unite and the GMB local government union leaders. In the first week of October it was rumoured that they were divided over the employers’ “proposal” which would repackage the original offer of 1% with ever so slightly more money for the lowest paid, to be paid for by… average and higher paid staff.

The only sticking point in this – though obviously not much of one, since nearly half the negotiating officers on the National joint Council supported it – was that the new proposal would actually save the employers money. Yes, that’s right, it would give us a smaller overall pay rise!

So last week they pleaded for another meeting, cap in hand, saying, Sir, can I have a little bit more please? They were offered a little bit more: essentially a one-off Christmas bonus of £50-100, followed by a 2.2% rise lasting from January 2015 to March 2016.

As this would not be backdated, and would be a two-year deal taking the unions out of pay negotiations in 2015, election year, it would represent another real pay cut. Just how “little” an improved offer this amounts to can be seen by the fact that members would not even recoup what they lost by going on strike on 10 July.

The offer is now going to a ballot of members, starting next week (20.10.14), as will a similar proposal in Scotland, whose strike was suspended on 14 October. Branches around the country have declared their disgust at the suspension of strikes and the bureaucrats’ willingness to settle for a pittance. One can only presume the swift ballot is designed to prevent activists from whipping up a campaign against the sell-out.

But the council workers’ strike suspension was not long to stand alone. Mick Cash, new General Secretary of the RMT, announced that this week’s planned 48 hour tube strike would also be suspended. Cash admitted that 897 jobs were still under threat. But the irony of London Underground announcing its plans to introduce driverless trains by 2020 on the very same day underscores how rudderless the RMT is.

Then the UCU – rather predictably – bent the knee before the court judge and called off their strike. The judge ruled that the ballot was “out of date”. This is the second time this year the UCU leaders have refused to countenance defying the anti-union laws, which shackle our unions, the first being at Lambeth College in April. By the way, the UCU also pulled the plug on Lambeth College’s demand for a fresh ballot to strike in defence of holidays and sick pay.

So the “Autumn of Action” has so far resulted in a four hour NHS strike. Good for them, but this isn’t exactly going to halt the decline in wages, let alone halt the destruction of the NHS. PCS plans to strike on Wednesday 15 October remain in place, but their serial one-day strikes have never and will never result in a victory. They need to strike harder and for longer.

No one really wants to say ‘I told you so’. But we did. On the front page of this month’s paper, under the headline, “Don’t wait for Labour – fight for a pay rise now”, we wrote:

“Is this the trade union leaders’ ‘last hurrah’ before the election, before they call off all action on the grounds that they must not ‘embarrass’ the Labour Party? The answer is yes.”

Members’ anger at these cowardly sell-out merchants is palpable.

  • We should mount a massive campaign to reject the deal in local government.
  • At the same time we should hold votes of no confidence in the negotiators and general secretaries behind this decision.
  • We should demand, by launching mass petitions, that they are immediately recalled and fresh leadership elections held.
  • We should call for elected rank and file representatives to control the negotiations from now on.
  • McCluskey, Prentis and co. plan to use the TUC demonstration this Saturday as a platform to demobilise the struggle in favour of promoting a Labour victory as the solution. This is to place to be to make our opposition loud and clear, to activists and leaders alike.

But most of all, we should organise from below. Never has a network of rank and file militants across all the unions and along the length and breadth of the country been more needed.

 

Come to the Cross-Union National Rank & File Meeting in London on 8 November.

Cross-Union National Rank & File Meeting

Cock Tavern

Phoenix Road

London

NW1 1H

 

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