Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/276/24489
Fight Poverty Pay
For a one-day public sector strike
THE FIREFIGHTERS have postponed their action for the moment but there is no let-up in the struggles against low pay.
This week has seen FE college lecturers and support staff on a national strike for the second time since May. On 14 November, London university workers are also coming out on strike over the London cost of living allowance.
12 days later, on 26 November, London teachers will also be striking over the same issue. Council workers, who are involved in selective action, could also join them on that day.
Rail workers on Arriva Northern trains are entering their ninth month of strike action and plan to strike again leading up to Christmas if their pay demand is not met.
This wave of strikes is the latest manifestation of the boiling anger workers feel against New Labour's indifference to the problem of low pay. Workers see the top directors of British industry vote themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds in salaries and bonuses but resist with all their might the justified pay claims of ordinary workers.
Not for the bosses the criteria they apply to workers of "prove you are worth it", because when it comes to their own salaries the rule is "who cares we control the cash".
Last week, even The Observer asked : "Is Bart Becht, chief executive officer of Reckitt Benckiser and the UK's highest-paid executive, worth the same as 400 firefighters?" It would take the combined pay packets of ten coachloads of nurses to match Mr Bech's pay.
Blair and Brown control the pay of millions of public sector workers, either directly or indirectly. The government is the paymaster of firefighters and university workers.
It controls the cash doled out to the privatised FE colleges and subsidises the profits of the rail companies. It finances most of the spending of the local councils and it is the direct employer of thousands of civil servants, health workers and teachers.
No matter how New Labour tries to separate parts of the public sector, workers know the government holds the purse strings.
That is why the demand for the unions to coordinate action all together is receiving wider support.
The Socialist Party has been to the fore in demanding that the union leaders call a one-day public sector pay strike which should also include the previously privatised sectors.
A one-day strike involving up to five million workers would send a forceful message to the government. They would know that they cannot pick off one section of workers from another.
The old adages count more than ever before; unity is strength and an injury to one is an injury to all.
In The Socialist 8 November 2002: