Monday, 11 July 2011

30 June: stories and experiences

At a recent meeting to discuss the strikes and rallies across Britain on 30 June lots of people had great stories to tell. Here are just a few of them:

At Birmingham Council there were ninety pickets on the picket line. Members of other trade unions refused to cross the picket, thus taking illegal, unofficial strike action. In one small workplace in Birmingham there was just one worker on strike that formed a picket 'line' with a branch officer. The first person to come along cheered when he saw the picket line and told them that he had worked there for 25 years and had never been on strike. This was his last day and he would be spending it on strike. As the morning progressed every other worker one by one refused to cross the picket line. The age of solidarity is back. This shows how things have changed in Britain. We need to link workplaces together and bring back flying pickets.

The rank-and-file membership of the British Medical Association (BMA), not usually known for their radicalism, have overthrown the leadership's attempts to end their opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill. The BMA voted for strike action over pensions with 78% in favour.

There were 30,000 strikers at a demonstration in London on 30 June but strangely there were no mounted police. Was this a change in strategy from the Metropolitan Police? No, the workers that prepare the horses for the police to use refused to do so out of solidarity with those on strike.

The Prospect civil service union, who are generally much more conservative than the PCS, recently passed a motion at their conference unanimously calling on the union to call co-ordinated strike action with the PCS.

There are many lessons from all of this, one being that workers are beginning to feel the weight of thirty years of defeats lift from their shoulders as they re-discover solidarity and unofficial action en masse. Another is that we should not just write off the big unions like Unison and Unite and assume they will not strike. If we fight both within and without those unions, putting pressure on the leaderships we can expect to see them coming on board with mass co-ordinated strike action.

We need to argue in our anti-cuts groups and our unions for arranging transport to the protest at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester in October now and to pass motions calling on the unions to 'name the day' for the next day of strike action and raise the idea of mass co-ordinated strike action in October.

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