- Category: Unions
- Published on Friday, 11 July 2014
- Written by IS Network
Thursday July 10 2014 saw the biggest public sector strikes in Britain for some time, possibly since the 1926 general strike. Thousands of people demonstrated all over the country against public service cuts, attacks on wages and the ruling class’s permanent austerity programme.
The cost of living keeps rising while wages are frozen and vital services are closed or outsourced. There is a generation of young people out of work, paying extortionate fees for study or scraping by on low pay and zero-hours. Workers are seeing their pensions, pay and working conditions eroded. People who are dependent on various health and social care services are seeing these essential services taken away or drastically reduced. This is class war being waged and won by the rich and their government.
As workers, fighting back in the workplace is our most powerful weapon to resist these attacks. This strike was big, but after the sell-out of 2011 we all know that in itself is not enough. There can be no islands of trade unionism, especially as the balance has moved away from workers striking at the point of production and big workplaces toward more dispersed sectors based around distribution and social reproduction where strikes, particularly one-day strikes, often don't have an immediate impact. Unions will have to mobilise alongside wider social movements and community campaigns or face a shrinking constituency. Initiatives that encourage greater rank and file activity and increased democratic control of unions need to be encouraged and nurtured.
Marches and rallies took place in most major towns and cities across the UK, thousands strong in Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and elsewhere.
Gareth H: Walking through Trafalgar Square with a wad of Left Unity leaflets, I ran into Paul Mason, Economics Correspondent for Channel 4 News and author of Why Its Kicking Off Everywhere. I thrust one of our leaflets in front of him and said, ‘Paul Mason, you need one of these don't you.’ He took a look at it, smiled and said, Yes I do,’ taking it from me. Kinda made my day despite the rain.
I haven’t seen any “official” figures but I thought there was a pretty good turnout from the NUT, PCS and FBU. The only speaker at the rally who had any oomph and gave any real mention of class politics (that I could hear) was Matt Wrack, general secretary of the firefighters’ FBU union, saying that this is a demonstration of what the working class can do and calling for lots more days like this.
"If you want to cross the picket line at Streatham Library you have to crawl through the Scab Tunnel." (Pic: Steven E)
Grace Petrie at the rally in Town Hall Square, Leicester (video: Ambrose Musiyiwa / CivicLeicester)
Anti-cuts councillor Wayne Naylor addresses the Leicester strike rally.
(Pic: Christian H)
(Pics: Luke S and Martin R)
Martin Ralph (UCU - PC):
On the Liverpool rally the unions said 3,000 marched. At this rally a motion was put to tell the TUC to organise a two day general strike in the autumn. All voted for it.
FBU and NUT gave the strongest speeches at the rally, perhaps because the immediate attack on pensions (which will mean not taking any pension until the age of 68 and competency tests for teachers and firefighters in their 50s) in addition to workloads, changing contracts and wages means the rank and file teachers and firefighters want to fight. The FBU have organised 18 days of strike action since October 2017.
The other unions were on strike against the 1% pay offer. However, Unite and Unison are affiliated to and will support the Labour Party in the elections “to the hilt” with many millions of pounds. The Labour leader Miliband told the BBC yesterday that he did not support the 10 July strikes.
At the national conference of trade union councils in June, 34 delegates voted for and 31 voted against a motion calling on the trade union councils to start a discussion on what type of political representation is needed by the working class. They then voted to send that motion to the TUC Congress in September. The RMT voted this year to remove any mention of the Labour Party from their statements rule book etc. The FBU, PCS and other unions can and do give support some anti-cuts candidates irrespective of what class struggle party it is.
(Pic: Jon Super)
Pics by Louise W here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/louisefeminista/sets/72157645214893878/