Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/359/5906
Action needed across the public sector
DESPITE TONY Blair taking it easy in the holiday homes of his rich friends in Italy and the Bahamas, there's been no let up in the government's assault on the public sector.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser
Health minister John Reid has announced that 15 more hospitals will be built under the private finance initiative. This is in effect handing over another large chunk of the NHS into the greedy hands of big business.
This has been followed up by inviting private companies to take control of NHS Logistics, the stores and supplies wing of the NHS, responsible for supplying hospitals with "everything from syringes to Weetabix".
Labour's handing over of schools to big business has allowed evangelical Christian and car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, who runs the West London City Academy and the Kings Academy in Middlesborough, to make a tidy profit out of education as well as encouraging the teaching of creationism.
The wholesale privatisation of the public sector is Labour's goal. The ideologues of New Labour want to reduce the public sector to little more than a core workforce which will oversee the £120 billion a year spent by the government to provide services to its citizens.
Private companies will be able to bid for the contract to supply every public service, at a profit. This affects everybody - parents looking for a school for their children, the sick looking for a hospital, the low-paid looking for help to pay their rents and the unemployed.
To paraphrase Neil Kinnock's warning to the 1992 Labour Party conference about the prospects of a Tory government: "Don't get sick or unemployed under Labour, don't be homeless, don't be dependent on the state under Labour, for you will be in for a shock".
That is why the public sector unions have a huge responsibility, not just for their own members but for all the working class.
Labour wants to smash the public sector unions. They are consciously attempting to isolate the most left-wing unions, the civil service union PCS and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) from the rest of the union movement. One councillor even told the Financial Times: "A lot of councillors and the government want to smash the FBU. Why don't they want to be honest about it?"
Unfortunately, the strategy of some of the left union leaders is to go along this path and separate themselves from the PCS and FBU. The announcement of civil service cuts was initially all but welcomed by some of them as "just a few backroom jobs". They have had to be more circumspect since chancellor Brown spelt out that 104,000 jobs would be going.
Only direct industrial action by the maximum number of public sector workers will make Blair sit up and listen. He knows that - that is why he is trying to divide and rule the public sector unions.
The Socialist Party, along with our supporters in the public sector trade unions, is launching a campaign to unite public sector workers in a one-day strike. We believe that only this will make New Labour sit up and listen.
All the best-worded resolutions on the TUC conference agenda will be as nothing unless it is backed up by action. What is needed is for all trade union activists to put their union leaders under massive pressure and demand action now in defence of the public sector.
- Defend the public sector
- Organise a one-day public sector general strike
- Fight to defend all jobs
- Fight to defend effective trade unions
- End the link with New Labour - Stop paying union members' subs to the Labour Party
Build a new mass workers' party
Join the campaign:
Campaign to defend the public sector
Campaign for a one-day public sector strike
Leaflets and petitions are available for use inside and outside workplaces, as well as in general campaigning activities: contact PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD, 020 8988 8764, firstname.lastname@example.org
In The Socialist 21 August 2004:
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis