Its official – Unison’s local government workers have voted to strike on July
10th against the ConDem pay freeze (read here –
This raises the prospect of well over a million public sector workers striking
together in a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ unions that could also include Unite,
GMB, PCS and the NUT. It is possible that the FBU, who were again on strike
last Saturday could also take part on the biggest day of co-ordinated strike
action since N30 2011.
That 2-million strong strike against the Government’s attacks on public sector
workers’ pensions was arguably the biggest single day of strike action since
the 1926 General strike. It could and should have been the platform for the
decisive action that could have won a victory on pensions which would have
blown a hole in Cameron’s austerity offensive.
Instead, particularly the leaders of Unison and the GMB with the support of
the TUC and its then general secretary the now Sir Brendan Barber stopped the
struggle in its tracks. Undoubtedly, that loss of momentum only emboldened the
ConDems to unleash the most vicious package of cuts since the 1920s. The NSSN
along with militant unions like the RMT, PCS and POA attempted to build rank
and file pressure to maintain this action.
Nevertheless, in the process, the ConDems have created a huge anger and
frustration that would make the July 10th strike the most popular thing the
unions could ever do.
This is the lesson of the tube strikes which had massive public support for
the RMT because in the midst of all political parties signed up to austerity,
workers want to see someone fighting back. That is why the unions should
organise public strike rallies on July 10 to bring behind them all those
suffering from these brutal cuts. The N30 demonstrations that took place in
virtually every town and city were massive and these could be bigger.
But the main lesson that has to be learnt from N30 is that they have to be the
start not the end of sustained action that takes in all the public sector and
spreads to the private sector and even those workers currently not organised
in the unions. Just over the last months we have seen a rash of disputes from
workers in Doncaster Care UK and Safety Glass in Tyneside to One Housing and
the indefinite strike in Lambeth College. These along with the big protests by
the legal profession against the cuts to legal aid, the protests and stoppages
by construction workers and the people that were attracted to Saturday’s
Peoples Assembly march show the potential that the unions could realise if
they put themselves at the head of this movement. The 750,000-strong TUC
demonstration on March 26th in 2011 as well as the mass mobilisation of N30
that year shows once and for all the authority that the unions have when they
The 8th annual NSSN conference is meeting on July 5, five days before the pay
strike. I appeal to all activists in the trade union and anti-cuts movements
to come along to discuss how to build the biggest strike possible on July 10
and how to sustain it into the autumn and beyond to win what could be a
decisive victory against this fat cat government.
Rob Williams NSSN national chair