Unions declare war on austerity

by Daphne Liddle

BRITAIN is now once again in recession; the double dip has happened. Even fellow imperialists like US President Obama and Christine Largarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, have tried to advise Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Osborne that too much austerity, too many cuts, are preventing an economic recovery in Britain.

When millions of people have suffered a serious cut in their income it is not surprising they are not buying so much stuff. It is the classic crisis of overproduction; the more that jobs, wages and benefits are cut, the less people have to spend; the less they spend the more businesses go bankrupt — and throw more people out of work.

But in the case of Cameron and Osborne, who have never had much of a grasp on basic economics, the cuts were never just about repaying Government debts incurred by bailing out the banks in 2008 and 2009. They were always political; always part of the elitist Tory ideology that seeks to increase inequality so that the top one per cent can thrive at everyone else’s expense.


And it was always about keeping workers in the shadow of loosing their jobs, their homes, their vital services like health and education in order to keep them subdued and obedient. The abyss of total destitution for each worker and their dependents must be re-opened by abolishing state welfare to make workers grateful and humble for any crumbs they can get.

Cameron and Osborne are not too hot on history either or they would know that this sort of policy can also have the opposite effect. It makes us very angry. It gives workers much more reason to join and become active in their unions and use the strength of organised numbers to fight back.

And we are seeing with the latest round of union conferences a renewal of pressure from the rank and file for action. The one-day strike last November, supported by around two million public sector workers in defence of their pensions, was magnificent. But after that the Coalition government responded with divisive offers. And the unions involved all took different approaches.

There was delay and confusion and the union leaders lost control of the ball.

The civil service union PCS and Unite have played a leading role in trying to get things back together and on 10th of May there was another major strike but not on the same scale as last November.

Now at union conferences, the workers who were expecting their battle to defend pensions to grow in strength, have been putting pressure to renew the fight.

Well-paid union leaders may have lost focus but that is not possible for low paid workers who are suffering new cuts and assaults on their living standards every day.


On Tuesday 22nd May the GMB union voted by 96 per cent to reject the public sector pension cuts the Government is trying to impose on NHS workers.

Unite welcomed this and called on the Government to drop its attack on NHS pensions.

To date members from seven unions representing a million NHS staff have roundly rejected the Government’s NHS pension proposals in recent consultative ballots — plans which will see them pay more, work longer, and get less in retirement.

Central to the government’s plans will be forcing NHS staff to work until they are 68. This will be unsafe for staff and patients, putting them at risk.

PCS annual conference in Brighton is now debating the fight back against the cuts. A motion from the PCS national executive committee condemns the Government’s continuing assaults on the public sector and sets out a strategy for continuing the campaign, jointly with other unions, for an alternative of investment for economic growth and tax justice.

The TUC has set the date of 22nd October for another mass protest in London with a rally in Hyde Park under the slogan “For a Future that Works” — a similar event last year was supported by around half a million marchers.

But it needs more than this. It needs more mass strikes like the one last November that really shook the Government.

The Government is weakening — with the double dip making plain its economic incompetence and the local elections delivering a stinging blow to the increasingly shaky and divided Con-Dem Coalition. It can be pushed over.

Coordinating action by many unions is a slow and cumbersome process. But union leaders, in this day of instant electronic communications, must improve their performance if they are to earn their pay and defend their members’ interests.