BUILD FOR A UNITED PUBLIC SECTOR GENERAL STRIKE
Today’s strike involving about 750,000 workers across Britain, including 3,000 PCS members in Northern Ireland has rattled the Tory/Lib Dem coalition. Unable to justify their austerity agenda of vicious cuts and attacks on workers pensions, they have resorted to mud-slinging and lies – accusing unions of having no support for strike action and disrupting children’s education. This is the same Government of millionaires which is carrying out devastating cuts to public services, leading to closures of schools, hospitals and vital services, while cutting taxes for their big business chums!
The changes to pensions for ordinary public sector workers must be fought by the entire trade union movement. The proposals will mean members will be expected to double or treble their contributions (the value of an extra day’s work a month), work until age 68, and accept cuts of 20-50% in the value of pensions. Our pensions’ value has already been reduced by 15-25% because of the un-agreed re-indexing of pensions and benefits.
Cuts for workers, bonuses for the rich
Together with rising inflation and pay freezes for several years, public sector workers cannot take another hit in the form of increased pension contributions. The ‘Con-Dem’ government claims “we are all in this together” due to the budget deficit. This is utter nonsense. In the past year alone, the top 1000 richest people in Britain saw their wealth increase by £60 BILLION! To add insult to injury, the top bankers continue to see their pay and pensions rise. Last year, the top five bankers at the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland were paid £20million, including banker Ellen Alemany who was paid almost £6million and £736,000 towards her pension.
Stop all cuts
Workers are not to blame for the economic crisis and the budget deficit. The fault for the crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of the top bankers, financial institutions, wealthy speculators and their system – not ordinary working people and the poorest in society. The trade union movement as a whole must not swallow the propaganda that cuts are needed. The British Labour Party has again revealed it’s true nature by agreeing that cuts are needed – they merely call for cuts to be carried out over a longer timeframe. Unfortunately, there are some trade union leaders who echo this line. If some in the trade union movement accept cuts need to be made, it will lead to division amongst workers over where cuts “should” be made and will weaken the trade union movement. All cuts to jobs, conditions and services must be opposed.
The bosses and their political representatives, in Westminster and the Assembly, are also attempting to turn private sector workers against public sector workers. In the coming months and years, the sectarian politicians in the Assembly will also attempt to divide workers over cuts to local services. The trade union movement must stand against all these divide and rule tactics and say “Stop ALL cuts”.
For a 1 day public sector general strike
Today’s strike must be the beginning of a series of escalating strike action which can defeat the Westminster government and the Assembly Executive’s cuts. NIPSA, the largest union in the North, has announced it will be balloting members for action in the Autumn. Unison has announced it is consulting members on a ballot. This is not enough however. The trade union leaderships need to launch an extensive campaign to build support amongst members and put a strong case for a programme of strike action capable of defeating the Assembly Executive. If members are not convinced the trade union leadership is serious about fighting there will be no confidence in taking the strike action required to win. A strategy of seriously fight the cuts must be outlined now to build confidence. A one day public sector general strike in Northern Ireland would have a major impact and would demonstrate the huge power workers possess when they are organised and take action. But a one day strike must be the start of a movement to force the Executive and the Tory/Lib Dem government to abandon the cuts. It must be followed by co-ordinated action escalating to a two day strike if necessary. Public demonstrations must also coincide with strike action, uniting the entire community against the cuts.
Join the Stop the Cuts Campaign
The Stop the Cuts Campaign was launched last summer to unite all trade unionists and anti-cuts activists to build mass opposition to the cuts. It has gained major support and is now officially supported by NIPSA, the Fire Brigades Union and the INTO teachers union plus many individual branches. Your trade union branch and/or local campaign group can affiliate to the Stop the Cuts Campaign by contacting 90311778 or e-mailing email@example.com
New party needed for workers
All the political parties in the Assembly Executive are implementing huge cuts to jobs and services. £4billion will be cuts over the next four years which will lead to tens of thousands of job losses and ruined services. Workers have no voice in the Assembly. It is vital a new mass party to represent the united interests of working class people is now discussed in workplaces and the trade union movement. Sectarian attacks in recent weeks have shown that the growing unemployment and alienation resulting from the Assembly’s cuts will give sectarian forces in both communities opportunities to stir up division and conflict unless a working class political alternative is built. If the trade unions were to initiate a process of discussion and involvement of workers and youth with a view to forming a socialist alternative to cuts, austerity and the failure of the capitalist system, it would strenghten the ability of ordinary people to fight the cuts.
The Socialist Party is a campaigning party which organises in Catholic and Protestant communities, in the trade union movement and amongst young people. In the past we played a leading role in organising strikes against sectarian killings, fought the introduction of water charges through the We Won’t Pay Campaign and have forced employers to increase the pay of exploited low paid workers.
In the South, our two TD’s Joe Higgins and Clare Daly and our MEP Paul Murphy are leading the opposition to the Fine Gael/Labour government through the United Left Alliance and by building grassroot campaigns in communities. In Britain, our sister parties in Scotland, England and Wales are campaigning within unions such as the PCS where our members such as Janice Godrich and Chris Baugh are building support for a fighting strategy to defeat the cuts.
We stand for a socialist society where the major resources in society are publically owned and run democratically by ordinary people in the interests of people needs – not to make profit for the wealthy few.