Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/238/25041
Support The Strikers
OVER 60,000 PCS members in benefit offices and job centres will be taking further national strike action on 28 and 29 January in their wholly justified struggle to have proper health and safety at their place of work.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party Industrial Organiser
Thousands of members of the rail union RMT working for Arriva trains in the north west (24/25 January) and South West Trains (SWT) (28/29 January) will also take strike action in pursuit of their pay claims.
140,000 Royal Mail workers will be soon voting in a national ballot for industrial action after the bosses offered a miserable 2% pay increase. Postal workers in sorting offices have some of the lowest pay in the public sector and are forced to work lengthy hours to keep up their earnings.
New Labour and the bosses fear that a victory for any of these groups would send a signal to all workers that only by militant action can there be any real gains made. This explains their heavy-handed approach to the strikers.
With a full-blown recession in the economy looming, whatever New Labour's spin doctors say, these strikes are a dress rehearsal for future mass struggles of workers in defence of jobs and living standards.
The strikes and proposed industrial action involves for the most part new left leaders in the PCS, the RMT and the CWU. It is just as much a test of these new leaders' "bottle" as it is for the government.
Civil servants have demonstrated, particularly in the benefit offices, that they are prepared to struggle to defend decent health and safety conditions in the workplaces. The national executive committee of the PCS has decided to conduct a members ballot to decide the next stage of the struggle. The ballot is to decide on the issue of an overtime ban and withdrawal of "good will" (work to rule).
Whilst this might be correct to "tie up this issue" the leadership should also be prepared to call further national strikes in line with existing policy. The strike ballot allows the union to call for more strikes days up to and including a five-day national strike.
The key question of what next can only be answered after the effects of this current strike action are assessed.
Union reps are being consulted as we go to press. Some will undoubtedly be calling for an escalation of the dispute. The employers have offered little in the way of concessions. They can only be moved by decisive action.
Pay is an issue for RMT workers in all of the train operating companies. The strikes at Arriva and SWT presents an ideal opportunity for the RMT nationally to organise united strike action, linked to the demand for renationalisation of the railways under democratic control of workers and rail users.
This would get enormous public support and give confidence to other workers affected by privatisation.
- PCS lobby of Parliament 29 January.
In The Socialist 25 January 2002: