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From: The Socialist issue 623, 5 May 2010: Prepare for battle

Search site for keywords: Election - PCS - Roger Bannister - Alex Gordon - Trade union - Unions - Pay - Public sector - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

After the election...

Prepare for battle

Barking PCS pickets, photo Pete Mason

Barking PCS pickets   (Click to enlarge)

Fight the devastation of jobs and services

In the last days of the general election campaign the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) tried to provoke the 'big three' parties into breaking their silence and coming clean on the 'savage cuts' of £55 billion on average that they all intend to make.

The IFS estimates that the cuts could be the worst since the Second World War.

Any combination of the three main parties in government will hope to bring the pain of swingeing cuts, currently being inflicted on the Greek working class, to Britain.

The Financial Times has said a new government may cut public sector pay by 5%, freeze benefits for a year, means-test child benefit, abolish winter fuel payments, and cut bus passes for pensioners. Three leading trade unionists gave their response to The Socialist.

The RMT and POA call on parliament to unshackle the unions, photo Paul Mattsson

The RMT and POA call on parliament to unshackle the unions, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

quote marks 2 opening

Alex Gordon, President of the RMT rail workers' union

The leaders of the three principal political parties have decided that they will attack public spending in the same way as the government of Greece has been ordered to.

The reaction of the trade union movement in this country is going to be absolutely critical. If it follows the example of the Irish Confederation of Trade Unions, of social partnership with a government implementing public spending cuts, there will be very serious consequences for families and workers for the next decade.

But on the other hand, if the trade union movement decides to call for a show of strength, for public demonstrations and marches to defend services, there could be a very different story.

It seems likely that the new government will be rather weak and subject to pressures from the financial markets, as well as from the EU stability and growth pact. If there are no countervailing pressures from socialists and trade unionists then clearly they will do the bidding of those forces and it will be very serious for the rest of us - so we need to fight back.

We are going to need coordinated and if possible generalised action, not just local action - otherwise it will be death by a thousand cuts. And there's going to be a need for, not only a generalised fightback, but a politicised fightback.

quote marks 2 closing

Unless we also call for repeal of the anti-trade union laws there will be a disjunction between what we're saying and what we're doing. Trade union leaders will be tied up in the high court through injunctions and workers will demand to know why we're not demanding the removal of those undemocratic laws.

quote marks 2 opening

Roger Bannister, Candidate for Unison general secretary

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has forecast that up to 500,000 jobs or 10% of the public sector workforce will be cut by the new government! Pay and pensions will also be under attack. But why should ordinary workers pay for an economic crisis not of their making while bankers are bailed out?

quote marks 2 closing

Local union branches should not be left to fight these battles on their own. National action is needed to defend jobs, pay and pensions and in Unison we need a general secretary who will lead such a struggle. All public sector unions must come together to build a united fight against these attacks.

quote marks 2 opening

Chris Baugh, Assistant general secretary, PCS civil servants' union (personal capacity)

It's quite clear that the massive budget deficit, caused by the bailout to the bankers and speculators, will be used as a pretext for even deeper cuts in public spending and an even greater rush to privatise.

It means that the struggles of PCS members, and trade unions in general, need to form part of an organised opposition. We need to not just be speaking together, we need to be taking industrial action together if we're going to stop the cuts and stop the onslaught after 6 May.

A feature of this election has been the consensus of the three main political parties. This just reinforces one of the major political needs in Britain today - to fill the gap left by New Labour's abandonment of working class interests.

quote marks 2 closing

That is a gap that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is determined to fill by building up support within communities, within trade unions and by mobilising a genuine, serious, socialist alternative.

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