This week is going to be crucial for defending pensions. Tommorrow the unison service group for local government meet to decide if to accept the governments shoddy deal or to reject and fight . Also on thursday the TUC meet again to decide what to do next. The NSSN and others will be lobbying both to urge no sell outs and to name the date for further industrial action.
I attended the PCS union left unity conference this saturday called in emergency to the threat of possible right wing trade union leaders selling their members out in turn for a easy life with the government. I have blogged about this countless times but this week is massive really. If unison and the TUC both decide to reject and carry on the fight we will have overcome a big blip which the government are looking to pounce upon. I think there will be fractions and splits which is just what the government want. At the conference last weekend the general secretary of the PCS Mark Serwotka brilliantly spoke and put the case for carrying on the fight and told us we have reached a pivotal point in the struggle.
This is a fight on pensions we simply must win and there were many speech's to that affect last weekend. Many activists were urging to PCS to go it alone already and name the next date for action regardless of what the TUC does this week. This would be a big mistake as running too far ahead of the movement and stepping out of line is just what this government is looking for. The tories are looking for the PCS to be isolated so they can pick them off just like what happened in 1921 with the police union who ran out in front and got smashed as a result. The key here is unity and that has got to be unity of the biggest broadest coalition of unions in this. Our collective power is greater when we stand together. for ultra left types to suggest PCS name the date now would be a mistake as we still dont know how the TUC and Unison leadership will vote this week. once we know that we can then assess where we are and where to go next.
We may find there are less unions willin to take further action but even getting a million out on strike again will be big. This time last year no one imagined a million out on strike and although coming down from 2 million on N30 is still a sizeable turnout. This will as shown on June 30th had a affect on those unions not taking action who were asking why are we not out on strike too ? this will serve as a further lever on the movement and hopefully force the issue further.
The leaders of the TUC and Unison do not want this battle and have little confidence in their members taking strike action and have looked to defuse the movement and action at any chance they have got. Playing down the significance of N30 is to their eternal shame. It was a fantastic day which we should never forget. But the fundemental idea that anything the government is offering has changed since november 29th is obsurd . Nothing the government has offered has changed. A few minor concessions of delaying the bringing in of the pensions reforms and a slight help to elder workers within 10 years of retiring but nothing that wasnt on the table already. We dont just want the crumbs we want the whole lot. When the deal on pensions was sorted in 2007 this shouldnt even be being looked at if it wasnt for the government wanting to use this as a way of paying down the deficit. The mask is off and they are not even pretending otherwise now. All extra payments into pension contributions will go straight to the treasury to pay off the deficit.
This is not on and public sector workers did not cause this crisis it was the wreckless gambling bankers who got us into this mess. Their over sight that their capitalist casino could run and run was wrong when they failed and lost big time our stepped in and bailed them out at our expense.governments Now they are making us pay for this crisis and shortfall in government money in the harshest possible way. Attacking those at the bottom who will be hurt the most. Lowest paid workers and the young, disabled, women and those who have least chance of resisting. Its a crual tactic but one which if the TUC and Unison leadership get their way will be a realisation for millions.
The same fact that workers will be made to pay more, work longer and get less those 3 main sticking points have not changed if this deal goes through. Public sector workers should reject and fight this rotten government and its shoddy deal.
PCS left unity have proposed to set up a temporay which may become more permenant as the struggle goes on to combine the best forces of left groups within the various different unions to meet regularly and lend support to different unions and their rank-and-file members as and when they need it. Be that printing leaflets, assisting in a ballot or generally lobbying for more action. As with the private sector pension disputes which are increasing too now with Shell UK and Unilever announcing big cuts and ending their pension schemes their fight is our fight, Our fight is their fight and so on. Let this week be a turning point where as a movement we get back on the front foot and if we have to go over the top of Prentice and Barbour at the TUC then so be it. But tactics and what we do next will be affected hugely by this week's decisions.
Lets not give up without a fight. If it was right to strike on N30 it is right to keep fighting now Lets not let the trade union bureaucracy off the hook lets fight within the unions for the leadership we deserve. If they wont fight for us then they should move out of the way for people who do want to fight and will see disputes through to the end.
This is as Rob Williams the chair of the NSSN said is the fight of our lives. If we loose on pensions this will give a huge boost to this government who is looking to see if they can get away with robbing our pensions and if it can just watch them attack other areas and increased privatisation with breathtaking speed. Lets keep fighting now as if we dont fight at all we have no chance of winning if we at least try we have a chance.