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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Assessing the contiousness after N30 and what next ?

As the dust is still settling after the fantastic national strike of public sector workers supported by thousands of private sector workers too on November the 30th. Many trade unionists and socialists are weighing up the impact this strike has had and where do we go from here.

30 November was the day when around two million public sector workers, members of 30 trade unions, took part in the biggest strike for over three decades. The majority had never taken strike action before, many had never expected to. But they see no other way of both defending pension rights and signalling to the government that they will not accept its plans to destroy public services.

There were massive demonstrations in cities, towns and even villages, with estimates of over 1,000 taking place. In most cases they were the biggest rallies to have taken place for many decades, if not ever. In Bristol over 20,000 marched, in Manchester more than 30,000. In smaller towns there were large demonstrations - 2,000 in Bournemouth, 4,000 in Truro, 1,200 in Birkenhead, 1,000 in Hastings, 1,200 in Warrington, the list goes on.

Whatever brave face the Con-Dems show in public, behind the scenes they were shaken by the massive display of 'people's power'.

In one day, 30 November (N30), trade unionists gave a powerful demonstration that - contrary to the government's propaganda - public sector workers are crucial to keeping the country running. N30 showed that if these workers withdraw their labour, they are capable of bringing the country to a halt.

The private sector as well as the public sector was affected in many ways - including the closing of the Metro and the Tyne Tunnel in the North East, the money lost by the airlines and, above all, by the millions of private sector workers who had to take the day off in order to care for their children.


That is not to say that N30 was 100% solid in every workplace. At national and local level some of the unions participating have not organised a serious struggle for decades. Union officials have in many cases become used to administering defeat rather than fighting to win. Inevitably, as a result, there were many workplaces with no real union organisation.

However, across the country there were reports of workers walking out and organising picket lines in such workplaces. This is a beginning of rebuilding the trade union movement in Britain. Unison membership applications have increased by 126% since the ballot result. The same will undoubtedly be true of the other unions that joined the strike.

Unfortunately, the right-wing trade union leaders are terrified of calling further national action. Unison's leadership have mooted 'smart action' - that is sectional action - as the next step. This would be a serious mistake. Sectional or regional action as a supplement to further national coordination action could be useful, but as a substitute it will demobilise and potentially divide the movement.

The struggle of local authority workers in Southampton is held up as an example of 'smart' action. In reality, while Southampton shows the determination of local authority workers to fight, it is a demonstration of the limitations of 'smart' action, not of its success.

On N30 millions of workers felt their collective power. At the same time the majority understood that the government would not retreat without further action. The right-wing trade union leaders only took part in N30 as a result of pressure from their members, who were frustrated that they had not been called out for the strike on 30 June. Now that so many trade unionists have had their confidence increased by taking strike action, it will be very difficult for the right-wing union leaders to avoid calling further coordinated action.



It is clear that N30 had a big impact but drawing concrete conclusions of how far and wide this impact was felt is difficult to tell.
I have heard many misguided thoughts and reports on the strike from some thinking that this strike would have been enough to bring down this government and stop the attacks in one go to other nieve feelings that one day will be enough. It wont unfortunatly and more pressure needs to be pushed for for further strikes. The NSSN makes clear there should be escalated action of at least 24 hours across the country.
The truth is this government wants us to endure a lifetime of low pay followed by an impoverished old age. They have sought to divide public sector workers from private sector workers. However, the real division in society is between the haves and the have-nots.

Our slogan is "fair pensions for all". When rich Tory ministers talk about "fairness" between private and public sector pensions what they mean is a race to the bottom - they want to impose on us the worst pension provision they can get away with.

That is why we must stand together to defeat this attack. But they couldn't get away with this if the Labour Party were not committed to protecting corporate interests above those of the vast majority in this country.
If the main political parties in this country are incapable of representing the interests of the vast majority, then it is time we do so ourselves.

We will use all campaigning methods to defeat these attacks. We will oppose them in the courts, in our workplaces, in our communities too. I urge everyone not only to support your trade union but also the anti-cuts alliance in your own town or city. If there isn't one - then set one up.

We give our solidarity and full support to the pensioners' alliances, the students and the school students and the Occupy movement.

After 30 November's brilliant show of strength and solidarity we must prepare for further action if the government does not concede. Which looks unlikely now with further threats being made that will force this on us all.
With a potential sell out coming from the tops of the trade union movement of which i have blogged about the dangers of this from more right wing trade union leaders is a real possibility this coming week. We must ramp up the pressure on these leaders to continue the fight till the end.

Tommorrow monday the 19th of december there willl be a conference of the Public Sector Liaison Group (PSLG), the body that brings together TUC affiliated public sector unions, will be convened on Monday 19th December at 3PM.

At this meeting TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will attempt to sell Francis Maude's latest pensions offer as the basis for a settlement of the dispute to trade union leaders.

In a bid to head off this damaging out come the NSSN and other left trade union activists are calling for a lobby of the PSLG before it meets. Trade unionists will have the opportunity to voice their opposition to Maude's proposals and demand further action in the New Year.

If you are unable to make this lobby of the TUC which we can understand this time of year and such short notice we would urge you to sign this petition online demanding further action on pensions from the trade union leaders.
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pensions_strike_january/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=button

The NSSN will be demanding:

Reject Maude's latest pensions proposals which will mean all public sector workers having to work longer, pay more, and get less.

No to secret deals by union leaders over the heads of the membership. We demand democratic control of the negotiations.

We demand that the date is set for the next co-ordinated public sector strike early in the New Year. UNISON Scotland has already proposed 25 January as the date of the next strike.

The lobby will begin at 2:00 PM at Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street. WC1B 3LS

The NSSN urges all of it's supporters and readers to come down to the lobby and build the pressure for further action in defence of pensions.

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