Attacks on public sector workers and the services they provide will ensure the economy remains in recession. Despite this, those implementing the cuts tell us that there is no alternative. And everyone blames someone else. Cameron and Clegg blame the cuts on the last government. The Executive blames the Westminster government and claims it has no alternative to implementing the cuts. The main parties in the Assembly blame each other.
The reality is that the cuts are not necessary and they can be stopped. The trade unions have the power to stop the Conservative/Lib-Dem government and the Northern Ireland Executive in their tracks. Working class people are angry and already struggles in defence of services have broken out in a number of places like amongst medical secretaries and college lecturers.
Now a number of unions have decided to move towards more determined and widespread action, including strike action. On June 30th a number of education unions and the PCS civil service union are taking joint action on pensions and cuts. The giant Unite union, which organises in both the private and public sector, and the PCS have agreed a united approach to oppose the cuts. Other unions, such as the RMT transport union and the Communication Workers Union have backed a one-day public sector strike against cuts.
In Northern Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is discussing the idea of a day of action involving all the unions. This is positive as until now the trade union leaders in Northern Ireland have largely accepted the arguments of the Assembly parties and have concentrated on lobbying rather than resisting.
We cannot predict exactly when mass movements against the cuts will develop and on what issues. We can say that it will happen and when it does it is likely to be fierce given the scale of the cuts. The movement against student fees at the end of 2010 is a sign of things to come. So too is the situation in Spain where tens of thousands of workers and young people are occupying squares in towns and cities all over the country in a protest against cuts and unemployment.
When struggles break out working class people instinctively seek unity – between workplaces, across trade unions and across communities and the sectarian divide. The Stop the Cuts Campaign is seeking to build unity, bringing together trade union activists and community campaigners to discuss the way forward, to unite in common activity and common action.
Generalised and united action can succeed. The unions must name the day for a one day general strike of all workers in the North as the first step in a serious campaign to win. Get in touch now with the Stop the Cuts Campaign if you are angry about the cuts and want to play your role in the fight back.