Name the day for coordinated strike action!
General election now!
By Jim Stead – ISL
During the TUC congress, the CWU (postal workers) issued a letter to be read by their union reps at the picket line on 19 October. It included “CWU Members are facing the biggest assault in the history of Royal Mail Group on your jobs, pay, terms, conditions and the services we provide to the public.”
All workers are saying the same thing. The government is in absolute crisis. The decline of British capitalism is stark. That is why they cannot find leaders to take the road of much harsher attacks on the working class.
They cannot do that because hundreds of thousands of workers are fighting and pushing the national union leadership to go further. We support a general election now but it must not distract us from our goal of coordinated actions to reach a general strike to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
If a Labour government wins a general election it will only give a different name to the current economic policies of attacks on the working class and austerity plans. Keir Starmer distances himself from Blair in words but he and his shadow cabinet follow the same anti-working class and anti-immigrant policies. The best way to get rid of the Tories is to keep on fighting. Such an election will not bring us respite from the global policies of the IMF and the heartless multinationals.
We must also keep a vigilant eye on union leadership and expose all their manoeuvres to ignore union democracy and the TUC congress motions agreeing inter-union nationally coordinated strikes.
For example, the main UCU leadership recently ignored decisions at their National Executive Committee by sending out a contrary position in a national mailout the next day. While the Unite union used their block vote at the TUC Congress to support a motion calling for investment in the arms industry, the vote was split into 2,556,000 votes for and 2,469,000 against. This reversed the 2017 motion that agreed that workers in weapons manufacturing be redeployed into other industries.
Unions to support industrial coordination
The cost-of-living crisis and the need for building strike action was a major theme at the TUC Congress that started on 18 October as the Tories are aiming to cut back health, education, local services, and wages.
The unions, CWU, Unite, PCS, and RMT are organising many strikes and in a composited motion, called on the TUC and its affiliates to, “actively encourage, facilitate, organise, support industrial coordination and a united campaign of coordinated industrial action between unions so that workers in dispute can most effectively harness their union power to win. Including convening a working group of unions in public and private sectors to plan and coordinate action on pay and jobs.”
The school union, NEU, successful motion says “coordinate a campaign of industrial action across the public and private sector to win pay rises and improve standards of living.”
The university and college union, UCU, motion calls for “an industrial response, involving coordination of industrial action by unions fighting such employment practices”.
These motions represent well over 2 million workers, and the message from the rank and file is clear, they want more inter-union national coordinated strike action. The coordinated action has happened once on a national basis, which shows how reluctant union leaders have been to coordinate.
The motions are a step forward but need to be implemented through campaigns by the rank and file because the motions were agreed upon without naming a day, a week or a month when this could take place. And the language used does not express the necessary sense of urgency. With no dates mentioned, not even something that says within two months, the motions can be a set of fine congress words without concrete details. We call on the rank and file to make sure these words become action.
The motions never mention rank-and-file actions, like inter-union assemblies, and base conferences joining different unions to discuss how to work and plan strikes together in cities and regions across the country.
What can be meant by coordinated action? It can mean all unions in one sector striking together, or key workers in different sectors, but the need and feel for more than that exists as well. Each action can bring workers together if such actions are also used to build far-reaching coordination action and build towards a general strike.
Coordinating national strikes by building from inter-union assemblies and conferences is what we mean. The backbone of any union struggle should be union democracy and the involvement of the rank and file in planning the actions mentioned here.
Why do workers support widespread action and a general strike? Because inflation hits everyone such as the energy and food bills and it is rising continuously, food prices are now officially over 14%.
In most workplaces conditions, pensions, and sick pay are being hit – they are the same workplace issue. Workers face the same problems so unity in the struggle against falling real pay and attacks on our rights can be easy to achieve.
The strikes maintain support from the wider working class because everyone is suffering, and the future becomes ever more uncertain. Will state pensions keep on rising with inflation (if only once a year)? Over 4.5 million use prepayment gas and electricity metres – who pay more than those on direct debit – and their households face alarming poverty.
We are all suffering. Union organisers need to go to the unemployed, students, LGBTQI+, Black and ethnic minority groups and build alliances with them as fighters against austerity and discrimination and help unionise them.
We heard Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor says that the NHS, education and public services, in general, are possible austerity targets. It means sooner or later a new wave of austerity is coming from the Tories. The unions need to immediately respond to the TUC motions and use them to involve every possible union in common strike action, that is, unified coordinated strike action, a mass national strike action that brings the working class together and the government down.
The working class is back in struggle and now has to build massive coordinated strikes.
Build the inter-union discussions; name a day for nationally coordinated action now!
Build coordinated action into a general strike!