Tuesday 27 August 2013

Strike together to stop the Tories' attacks

I might be a physics teacher but it doesn't take rocket science to work out why the trade union movement needs to start taking united strike action.

The Coalition is pushing ahead with vicious cuts, privatisation of services and attacks on our pay, pensions, rights and conditions. It's high time that they were stopped.

There is a force that can do this - trade unions taking united strike action, backed up with support from the communities whose jobs and services we are struggling to defend.

Trade unions are strongest when we act together. It's about time that we did so. That's the message that the lobby of the Trades Union Congress being organised by the NSSN, the National Shop Stewards Network, will be taking to TUC delegates in Bournemouth on Sunday, 8 September.

The NSSN Lobby of the TUC is becoming a part of the annual trade union calendar – and for good reason. In previous years, NSSN Lobbies have helped to apply pressure on the TUC to organise first a national demonstration against cuts and then to support the co-ordinated strike action that took place in 2011. Last year, the NSSN lobbied to help make sure that the POA’s motion calling on the TUC to consider the ‘practicalities of a general strike’ was carried. This year, we urgently need the TUC to move from just talking about co-ordinating action – to helping to organise it.
A number of trade unions are already battling in important local or national disputes. FBU members have been balloting on industrial action to defend firefighters' pensions. The CWU have agreed to hold a national ballot of Royal Mail workers against privatisation. UCU members in higher education are considering action over pay. PCS is consulting members across the civil service on the next stage of its campaign of industrial action.

Teachers will be leading the way this autumn. A solid strike of both NUT and NASUWT members closed schools right across the North-West region in June. Now members of both unions in the rest of England and Wales will take part in one of two further days of regional strikes in September and October. That will be followed by a day's joint national strike action in November.  

Teachers have no choice but to take action. From September, the government is imposing divisive performance-pay arrangements that will allow school management to pick and choose who gets a pay-rise - and who doesn't. It's a scheme designed to cut the pay bill and to force teachers to work even longer hours. In the New Year, they're planning to announce more attacks on working conditions.  

There are other important events for trade unionists to support in September - not least to build a mass demonstration in Manchester outside the Tory party conference on 29 September to call a halt to the destruction of the NHS by this government in the interests of their big business backers.

However, demonstrations alone will not be enough. We need to call on the TUC to organise strike action coordinated right across our movement, a 24-hour general strike.

Some trade union leaders will continue to prevaricate but that makes it even more important that those who are up for the fight make plans for coordinated strike action. The NUT and NASUWT have already pencilled in a date for national action in November. Let's make it a day of coordinated national strike action that can start to push this government back at last.
NSSN rally at the TUC Congress at Bournemouth on September 8th:12.30pm-2.30pm Hardy Suite, Hermitage Hotel, Exeter Rd, followed by a lobby of Congress outside Bournemouth International Centre.

Confirmed speakers: Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka, Steve Gillan, Ronnie Draper and Ian Lawrence (RMT, PCS, POA, BFAWU and NAPO general secretaries respectively) Alec McFadden (North West representative on TUCJCC for trades councils and also President Merseyside County TUC), Teresa MacKay TUCJCC & Ipswich Trades Council and Linda Taaffe (NSSN).

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