The UK’s biggest co-ordinated industrial action for decades takes place on June 30th - everyone who opposes the cuts must support the strikes - and help make them part of a European wide movement of direct action in resistance to austerity.
Hundreds of thousands of workers from PCS, UCU, NUT and ATL unions are set to strike on Thursday in the UK’s biggest co-ordinated industrial action for decades. Teachers, lecturers and civil servants are fighting proposals by the Coalition government to smash up their pension rights in the interest of cutting funding.
The Coalition has consistently lied about so-called ‘gold-plated’ public sector pensions. They have tried to claim they are an unsustainable burden on the economy. In fact, the cost of public sector pensions has already peaked, and is set to decline into the future - without any ‘reforms’.
Very few public sector employees will receive substantial pensions. The majority of public sector pensions are less than £5,000 a year. The average private sector pension is £8,000 a year. But the directors of the top 102 UK companies can expect pensions that are on average over £200,000 per year.
By pushing for a fight over pensions, the Coalition is hoping to divide public and private sector workers. They want to claim those working in the public sector are taking money from hard-pushed public services at a time when the deficit needs cutting. They are trying to win an argument that public sector cuts are the result of public sector workers.
But the deficit grew because of the financial crisis. Unemployment has risen and tax receipts have fallen, while a total of £1.3trillion has been used to bailout and support the banks.
The financial crisis had nothing to do with workers in the public sector, and everything to do with the avarice and stupidity of high finance. Public sector workers should not be punished for a crisis they did not cause.
And we should be aiming to level pensions up. Private sector coverage is notoriously patchy. Decent pension rights should be extended to all workers.
Tax the rich to pay for services. Make finance and the banks pay for the crisis they caused.
It’s vital that we don’t let the government divide us. That’s why building a mass anti-cuts movement, with trade unions at its heart, is so important. The struggle against cuts can draw in those from right across society: not just public sector workers, now at the forefront of the struggle, but all those who will see vital services decimated.
The student movement late last year was the first blow struck against the government. UK Uncut’s direct actions have caught the political mood. The 500,000-strong TUC demonstration on 26 March drew in still wider forces. The more that these strikes can tie into that wider movement, the stronger both they and the movement will be.
This is, fundamentally, a weak government. It has got this far because our side, too, has been weakened by years of defeat and inertia. Strike days are amongst the lowest since records began, while union membership actually fell last year.
If we are to regain our strength we will have to draw on forces outside of the traditional ranks of the labour movement - from the students, to temp workers, to pensioners, to service users. The working class, particularly the young and the unemployed, is not always organised in trade unions. It should be - but we must start from where we actually are.
Spain and Greece show how the fight against austerity can draw in huge layers of society, angry and politicised. We must learn the lessons, good and bad, from the experience of the squares: of acting with imagination and drawing in new political forces. Direct action works.
But we must also ensure that basic working class organisation - the unions - are central to the movement. It was a mistake, on 26 March, for some to counterpose direct action to the main demonstration. Actions in support of strikers on June 30, like the picket-line breakfasts, are a step forward.
Unions are at the heart of the struggle. June 30 should be only the beginning of their fight. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has spoken of four million strikers this October. The unions may yet be able to deliver the killer blow to the austerity regime. They may fell the Bankers’ Coalition with strikes. Or this divided government may collapse short of that point, just as Thatcher’s succumbed to the Poll Tax movement.
But they cannot fight alone. A mass movement needs to be built. The TUC should call another national demonstration to draw our forces together. Demonstrations like the 26 March are the backbone of any mass movement. They provide a structure and a strength to all the other actions. The second Coalition of Resistance conference on 9 July will be where the next stages of the campaign can be discussed, alongside speakers from European anti-cuts struggles. As austerity bites across Europe, international solidarity and co-ordination is vital.
But first, everyone who opposes the cuts must support the strike on Thursday.
- visit picket lines, even better as a group of you. Take strikers’ petitions and leaflets into your own workplace and start a discussion with others. Details of local pickets should be on the J30 Strike site.
- get to demonstrations, actions and rallies in your town centre on the day - don’t let the Tories divide us.
- if you’re not on strike this time, get involved with your local anti-cuts group - and join a union if you’re not in one.
Send your reports to the Coalition of Resistance live blog
The Coalition of Resistance website will be running a Live Blog on June 30th Starting from 7:30am. Send them your reports, video and images from the picket lines, rallies, protests and any other actions you are involved in using the details here.
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