DEFEND WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Defeat the Con-Dem government

by Daphne Liddle

THE civil service and teachers strike on 30th June 2011 represents the first skirmish in a long war of attrition between the unions — representing the working class — and the Con-Dem Coalition — representing the ruling class, especially the big bankers.

And it is good to see the unions at last taking up this battle, which cannot be avoided, to defend not only their own members but the whole class, including the elderly, the long term sick and disabled and the unemployed.

The key issue behind Thursday’s industrial action is the defence of public sector pensions. But that is only one front in this war declared on the working class by the Tories and their Liberal Democrat collaborators.

At stake is the future of the NHS, our education system, access to higher education for working class people, access to the justice system, access to affordable housing, access to care and support for the elderly, disabled, long-term sick and unemployed and a huge reduction in spending power for all working class people, along with a threat to all our jobs.

The cuts are an act of war against our class on behalf of the greedy bankers, whose “positive thinking” insists that they must get richer every moment they are alive — at our expense.

Even the dullest and most complacent union leaders cannot ignore this war against their members.

Some union leaders have been slow and reluctant to recognise the gravity of the situation. But pressure from angry and anxious members is forcing them to wake up.

For example Unison leader David Prentis has a record of preferring to negotiate behind the scenes rather than seek a confrontation with Government. But a week ago he made a powerful call to arms at the Unison’s annual conference, pledging all out strike in the autumn.

If he keeps his word this will be a great blow against the Con-Dem Coalition — which is now looking very worried. His members must hold him to it.

Unite is also gearing up for a ballot for action in the autumn — coordinated with other unions. And Unite general secretary Len McClusky expressed his union’s solidarity with those striking on Thursday.

Tory minister Francis Maude complains that the unions balloted and announced the strike date before talks with the Government.

butcher

But the Government never held talks with the civil servants and teachers before deciding to butcher their pensions. And the talks on Monday were predictably a waste of time.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, the biggest civil service union, said: “It was disappointing that the meeting proved to be no different to any of the others — it was a farce. Again the Government has shown no interest in actually negotiating on any of the key principles at the heart of this dispute.

“And this is a dispute that is entirely of the Government’s making. We did not ask for pensions to be cut, we did not ask for public servants to be told they must work years longer and pay more for much less in retirement. Every independent analysis shows that public sector pensions are affordable now and in the future, and costs are falling in the long term.

“On Thursday (30th) we will see hundreds of thousands of civil and public servants on strike and, on the experience of today’s meeting and the last few months of Government obstinacy, we fully expect to be joined by millions more in the autumn.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “David Cameron insists on pressing ahead with the baseless argument that public sector pensions must be substantially cut.

“The Teachers’ Pension Scheme has already been reformed in 2007.

The National Audit Office recognises that those changes, including increased contributions, a normal pension age of 65 and a cap on employer contributions, mean that costs are falling. The NUT believes that our scheme is viable and sustainable.

“However, our 2007 agreement also provided for regular re-valuations of the scheme and for teachers to pay more if costs are shown to have risen.

“This Government has refused to undertake this re-valuation and wants to impose further changes without any evidence they are needed.”

There certainly is now a growing power in the unions and that power is the justified anger of millions of workers. It is a power than can bring down the Con-Dem Coalition. Cameron knows this and he is very worried.

It is also a power that could force a future Labour government to reverse the cuts and to truly start to serve the working class it was created to represent.