Workers’ spending power is set to drop for the fourth year running, the first time this has happened since the 1870s. The working class is being asked to pay the price for the crisis of the ruling class. However, workers opposition to the cuts is growing, putting pressure on the trade unions to act.
The NUT teachers' union, the PCS civil service workers' union and the ATL teachers' and lecturers' union have each decided to ballot their members over the issue of pensions. This opens the possibility of mass co-ordinated strike action on 30 June. The UCU college lecturers’ union has already struck over pensions and will no doubt do so again. Unite members at the MoD and even in health could be involved too. UCU members in the “old” universities could also strike again on 24 May over their USS pension scheme. Thousands of NUJ members at the BBC are being balloted over compulsory redundancies at the World service. NUJ members could also strike on 30 June.
Following on from the half a million plus strong TUC protest on 26 March, organised workers are now at the centre of resistance. If the ballots go the right way and 30 June goes ahead then there will be further pressure on the “big battalions” of Unison, Unite and the GMB to move. A sign of the pressure that already exists on the trade union leaders was the statement from Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis statement this weekend that “unless this government changes direction it is heading for industrial turmoil on a massive scale...Unison will ballot 1 million of its members to strike to defend their pensions”.
There is a big difference between such statements and action. It will take a real fight by activists to win the ballots and make 30 June happen. But the idea of mass co-ordinated action, even a British General strike, is moving from the realms of sloganeering to reality. All anti-cuts activists have to take up an argument about the centrality of 30 June across the whole movement. This is not just another date in the anti-cuts calendar. This is the key date in developing the kind of fightback that can win.
We need a fightback in every part of the country on 30 June, including in Cornwall. There will be picket lines across the county if every school, college, the university and every PCS work place is out on strike. Anti-cuts activists should try to visit picket lines on the day but more than this we need to make it a day of resistance for everyone and get others involved. Could we get community groups, student groups, pensioners groups and so on to push for action of some kind on the day? Could parents be involved joining teachers outside schools? Could students occupy their university or college in support of their striking lecturers? Could we get delegations to picket lines from trade unions, anti-cuts activists with banners and placards and visit all the pickets in a local area? Could we organise a lunch time protest, demo and rally?
In the meantime we could leaflet civil service workplaces and colleges and try to contact local union reps. We could initiate or help call together mobilising meetings for activists to pull together the widest numbers of people who can build for the day and make sure we make the most of this fantastic opportunity.
In the colleges and the university we could try to organise joint mobilising meetings with students and involving other campus unions.
In Egypt, the demonstrations were the start of the process. But it was the strike movement amongst the working class that spelled doom for their tyrannical leader. Our movement may not be on the same scale as the one in Egypt but the lesson that we need to learn if we want to bring down our tyrannical government is that to win we need the organised workers to move. We need to see the 30 June as having the potential to land a serious blow on the coalition's plans and to make it, if not a day of rage, then certainly a day of resistance.
For more on this see 30 June mass strike becoming a reality.