The November strikes against the government’s attacks could now involve up to four million workers. There have not been strikes on this scale for decades. Next week’s TUC conference promises to be the most important for many years. It opens as the number of trade unions joining the call for a mass coordinated strike in November grows by the day.
Mark Serwotka of the PCS civil service workers’ union said, "We are moving to a strike potentially involving millions." The PCS, along with the NUT and ATL teachers unions and the UCU lecturers’ union, all have live ballots and are committed to strikes in the autumn.
Friday’s announcement that the NASUWT teachers’ union will now also ballot for a national strike this term means that another 250,000 teachers could join the battle. This is first time in a decade the union has balloted for national action. The Scottish teachers’ union, the EIS, is now set to ballot for an autumn strike, as are the head teachers in the NAHT and Welsh teachers in the UCAC.
The FBU firefighters’ union looks set to ballot. Prospect, the specialist civil service workers’ union, and the FDA senior civil servants union, both announced this week that they will ballot members unless the government backs off from its attack on pensions. It is thought the GMB will announce a ballot for three days of strikes in November, with one as a national strike to coordinate with other unions.
Unison the public sector union has put senior union activists on alert. The union is putting together the necessary meetings to approve going to ballot in local government and health sectors to join the autumn strikes. The government has pushed the trade union leaders who were willing to negotiate to the edge. When Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, spoke to the Financial Times on Friday he talked of "when" the talks fail, not "if". "We are now planning for industrial action for when these talks break down," he said. When this happens, he added, "you’ll see strikes throughout all of the public sector, it will include strikes in our schools, our civil service, our fire brigade, our local government service, our health service".
The anger and bitterness that brought 750,000 workers out on the magnificent strike on 30 June this year has not gone away. Every trade unionist and activist faces a challenge. If the government’s attacks are going to be beaten, then workers need to be organised, to win the ballots and spread the fightback. With millions of workers joining the struggle there is the potential for the sort of mass workers’ resistance that can stop the Tories’ attacks.