27 June 2014
Britain needs a pay rise. That’s clear to every worker who has seen wages decline year on year as the “economic crisis” has ground on since 2008.
The government and the employers have used the crisis mercilessly to attack our conditions pay and pensions. We’ve seen the rise and rise of zero hour contracts and our public services still face devastating cuts.
The Tories want to create a world without stable employment and contracts, where foodbanks become a fact of life and we live in fear of pay day crooks like Wonga.
But there is hope. The mood to resist is growing.
This year we’ve seen the return of national strike action with the walk out by teachers on 26 March.
There has been a rash of lengthy local strikes and many of them have won (see below). The fight by Unison members at Care UK in Doncaster and the all out strike by UCU members against new contracts at Lambeth College in South London have been inspirational and produced huge levels of solidarity.
The strike at the Ritzy Cinema and at Hovis in Wigan have shown once again that its possible to organise anywhere if the political will exist, no matter what managements do to marginalise unions or make workers feel more precarious.
We’ve seen big campaigns on the streets for benefits justice, against the bedroom tax and by disabled peoples’ rights campaigners like DPAC.
Tens of thousands marched against austerity on the People’s Assembly march in London on 21 March (despite being ignored by the mnedia).
And now we have the promise of a mass strike on 10 July.
If all the votes go the right way we could see more than 1.5 million people strike over pay in the biggest action of its kind since 2011.
Local government workers, teachers and civil service workers could be joined by firefighters and probation officers too.
The strike can provide a rallying point for everyone who wants to stop Cameron and his government continuing to drive down living standards, for everyone who wants to bin austerity for good.
The 10 July strike will be an antidote to the divide and rule politics of UKIP.
When teachers, classroom assistants, tax workers and council staff picket and march together we’ll see that our public services are built on migrant workers, they’re not part of the problem they are definitely part of the solution.
And once again we’ll see how despite bearing the brunt of the cuts women are in the front line of the resistance.
And 10 July strike is even more timely because Ed Miliband seems determined to continue austerity policies if he’s elected. The 1 percent pay ceiling will remain and Tory spending limits will be stuck to. A labour government won’t reverse the attacks, we have to hit back.
If we’re honest about it we all know we’ll need more than a one day strike to stop the Tories. That’s why it’s good news that there is an open debate about more action in the autumn, including by health workers.
We’re going to need to put up a fight this autumn.
The TUC “Briain needs a pay rise” protest on 18 October is important. It needs to be enormous. But as the PCS leader Mark Serwotka said back in 2011 “we’ve marched together but imagine if we strike together too”.
An escalation of the action would show the Tories that we’re serious. We need to bring all the fights together and turn the conference motions on co-ordinated action and the general strike passed in recent years into reality.
But we can’t just rely on our union leaders to bring all this about.
The mass strikes against the attack on public sector pensions in 2011 were halted because some union leaders stepped back from the fight and signed up to the “heads of agreement”.
And even the best union leader is only as strong as the rank and file they represent. We’ve got to get organised in every union and across the unions to push for the maximum action on 10 July and to escalate the campaign on the streets and with more strike action in the autumn.
Britain needs a pay rise, but Britain needs a pay strike too. We have to move beyond protest and towards a strategy that can defeat austerity. That means looking to the mass action in Greece and elsewhere as the model for the kind of movement we want to create.