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Unite To Strike Against Low Pay
ALTHOUGH THE union leaders were able to get council workers to accept a pay deal which was far less than they went out for, there is little sign of "industrial peace" breaking out for the government and the bosses.
Firefighters, FE college workers, London teachers, council workers, tube workers and increasingly local hospital workers are lining up in a wage offensive not seen since the 1980s.
Despite the existence of draconian anti-union laws, more and more public sector workers are preparing to take on the employers in the fight for a decent wage.
This reflects the anger from below, the embittered mood of ordinary workers who see the bosses increasingly lining their own pockets with huge wage rises whilst demanding that workers accept something far less.
The firefighters' ballot result will be announced on 18 October and strikes will probably be set before the end of the month.
The college lecturers and support staff have set their national strike for 5 November. Tube workers are due to take further strike action, this time for two days, possibly on 16/17 October.
London teachers and local government workers will also take a one-day strike possibly on 14 or 28 November, depending on ongoing ballots in the NASUWT teachers' union.
The unions are also balloting the non public sector education workers. Even though the GMB leader John Edmonds has put on hold the proposed ballot for strike action by the privatised parts of local government, the mood of these workers is clearly for something to be done about "two-tier pay" in their workplaces.
Leadership is key
Two-tier pay, where new workers recruited into the privatised parts of the public sector often end up on lower pay and conditions than those who were transferred from the public sector, has become another battlefield for strikes and industrial action.
This is the case in the health service in Scotland and Wales, where workers in private NHS companies have already taken action and in the case of Scotland won a famous victory.
All these examples demonstrate that if a clear call was made by the union leaders for joint action then it would have massive support. In London for example, the strikes over London allowances have already seen thousands of teachers and council workers on strike. Why should these workers be taking separate days of strike action?
The key to any industrial struggle is its leadership. Many public sector workers involved in this action are increasingly saying: Why don't the union leaders get their act together and link up the teachers and council workers with firefighters, college lecturers, tube workers in a common front for decent public sector pay?
A national one-day public sector pay strike would be a massive warning to the government and the bosses that unless their justified demands were met, workers are willing to take further action.
The strength of any struggle is the unity of the biggest number in action. Separate and divided action makes the chances of winning less likely. The new Left union leaders have a magnificent opportunity to take the struggle over pay forward. They should seize the time and co-ordinate action together.
In The Socialist 11 October 2002: