22 May 2014
This week the Sunday Times ‘rich list’ revealed that the wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has increased by 15%. All the talk of austerity and being ‘all in it together’ has obviously bypassed these fat cats. They now have a combined wealth of £520bn.
Since November 2011, when over 30 unions took strike action against government attacks, there have been calls for more united action. At the TUC votes for coordinated strikes and for a general strike have been won. Now it looks like there could be a strike supported by over a million workers on 10th July.
The NUT took action alone in March this year and voted to continue this action in June. The news that support staff in schools are to ballot members for a strike, alongside local government workers is excellent. The NUT has announced that it is preparing to take action on 10th July. The PCS this week voted to consult members about joining the action. The FBU have a live ballot and could also join in.
On top of this big national strike on the horizon, there have been some important local and sectional strikes taking place. The RMT have been battling plans to remove station staff from ticket offices on the tube in London, the Doncaster care workers have now taken 34 days of strike action this year against cuts to their wages by private company Care UK and have been getting support from across the trade union movement. Teachers at Edinburgh college took 3 days of action and won a 7% pay for most but a 22% rise for the lowest paid.
As we write Lambeth college workers are about to announce the results of a second ballot for UCU members at the college for an indefinite strike over massive detrimental changes to their contracts. They began an indefinite strike two weeks ago but had to re-ballot after an injunction was served by their employer. UNISON workers at the college have won a ballot with 85% voting to strike and their first two of action will be on Monday 2nd June and Tuesday 3rd June. If the UCU ballot is as successful as it was previously, they will be likely to join the strike that week. And in the same borough workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton and members of BECTU have taken several days of action, very solidly supported by members and by local activists demanding the living wage.
The disputes at SOAS where cleaners won a dispute over sick pay, and in the bakers union where we have seen victories over zero hours and casual contracts, have shown that workers can take on issues and win. Whenever workers are balloted and asked to strike the votes are overwhelming and are well- supported. Now we have to make sure the votes in Unite, the GMB and UNISON are solid enough to ensure the strike on 10th July goes ahead. This will give a huge impetus to all those who are desperate for a fight back.
We have a national protest, called by the People’s Assembly, and supported by the trade unions on June 21st, a mass strike likely to take place in July and talk by UNISON and the NUT of possible dates for strikes in September.
We have seen sparks of resistance and now have the possibility of igniting this resistance. This momentum must not be allowed to falter as it did after November 2011 so that in the run up to a general election we make it clear that whoever is elected, we will not accept a system where money is taken from low paid workers and those on benefits to be handed to the wealthy elite.
We need a pay strike that will reverse this and one that grows in strength until we win.