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"The genie is out of the bottle"
London National Shop Stewards Network meeting
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party
Coming straight from the fantastic 30 November public sector strike demo, the mood at the packed-out London National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) meeting was sky high after such a historic day.
The meeting was opened by Martin Powell-Davies of the NUT teachers' union NEC (personal capacity), and Rob Williams, chair of the NSSN.
Cheers greeted the many uplifting reports from picket lines and the demo. Retired public sector worker Mike Cleverley - and apparently his pension isn't very gold-plated - reported on conversations he had overheard on the tube going to the London demo: "The genie is out of the bottle". The front page of the free Metro declared: "This is class war". Glenn Kelly, a witch-hunted Unison trade union member, described the new generation "blooded" in the day's strike.
There was a serious discussion about the next steps the NSSN needs to fight for. This includes keeping up the pressure inside unions such as Unison, whose current leadership will need to be pushed to continue the struggle.
A mental health nurse described brilliant picket lines built by ordinary members despite the efforts of the local union bureaucracy to prevent a proper strike in her area. A Unison member described how a regional officer had told him he couldn't wear a Unison tabard and carry a Socialist Party placard! "Is it better to hold a placard saying 'Too far too fast' and a Labour rosette?"
Alex Gordon, president of the RMT transport union, moved the meeting with his report of the strike by RMT members in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary - a massive picket on the main naval dockyard, where the knot of history was tied when they were joined by veteran seafarers. To applause, he argued for united union action and for linking together public and private sector workers.
Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, raised the sights of the meeting, showing how the depth of the economic crisis means not only the necessity of a massive united fight by the trade unions, but also the need for a socialist programme and a mass working class alternative to New Labour.
The meeting pledged support for a prison worker who had joined PCS in order to join the picket line at his prison, and was later informed he had been sacked.
A Liverpool National Shop Stewards Network meeting followed the city's strike rally on 30 November. The meeting attracted over 80 workers, leaving standing room only.
Chaired by Dave Walsh, Unite Liverpool city council branch secretary, the speakers were Darren Ireland, RMT North West and North Wales regional council secretary, Dermot Finn, a blacklisted construction worker, and Tony Mulhearn. Tony was a member of the 'Liverpool 47' in the 1983-87 Labour council that refused to make cuts and forced £60 million of extra funding out of the then-Tory government.
Roy Farrar, Liverpool Socialist Party
In The Socialist 7 December 2011:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party editorial
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reviews