Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Building toward N30

As I was leafletting this morning, a member who assured me she would be voting "YES" asked me what she should the do on the day. Once she had voted as her Union asked, what would her Union then expect her to do on 30 November?

I explained that we would want her to strike on the day, to come in for a stint of picket duty, to join the gathering of pickets from across the borough mid-morning and then to join our contingent on the Central London demonstration.

(Because, of course, there will be a Central London demonstration. It is an inevitability and it would best be organised swiftly by SERTUC rather than have the Regional TUC play catch up with individual affiliates or unofficial groups.)

My point was to say, clearly that members must strike on 30 November. No sob story will justify scabbing - as on every picket line I have stood upon I have heard tales of hardship used to justify the shameful betrayal of the strikebreaker whilst knowing of loyal strikers whose suffering is far worse. Nor can fear of management justify breaking a strike (scabbing is a gift and invitation to a bullying manager). In any event all sane public sector managers will support this strike, which is against the Government (technically a particular Secretary of State in respect of each pension scheme) and not our employer.

Our Branch Committee today began to get to grips with the real problem of hardship and how we might mitigate it. All branches should take advantage of the freedoms given to quorate Branch Committees by the NEC, first to establish hardship funds where these do not exist and, secondly, to move unlimited amounts from general funds to hardship funds. Of course we cannot transfer funds we don't have or which are necessarily earmarked for another vital purpose.

We will do what we can but we cannot prevent strike action worsening the already intolerable hardship in which some of our members are living. Nevertheless our picket lines must aspire to be large enough and assertive enough that those contemplating crossing them conclude that to do so would be an even greater hardship and even less tolerable.

This may seem a bit mean - but a picket line is a means of enforcing collective organisation and is not there to facilitate the journey to work of those who believe themselves above the democratic decision of their colleagues. We only have anything worthwhile in this life because our predecessors put up with far greater hardships than anything imaginable today.

If strikebreakers in local government would give up their pensions (fought for and won by the unions), their enhanced contractual leave and maternity rights (fought for and won by the unions) and would revert, in real terms, to the pay rates of around 1900 (before trade unions were recognised and started negotiating our pay) then I would accept that they were simply fools rather than parasites. This is part of the message we need to convey.

I wish for 100% support on 30 November and that this should entirely be based upon enthusiastic assent to our justified cause. Realistically we must aim to maximise support as close to that level as we can and if, to do so, we must ensure that there are some who strike for fear of the vitriolic contempt of their colleagues if they did not then so be it. That pressure will have helped them to be better and less selfish people!

There is no middle way, no half way house. When the union calls a strike you either strike or scab. No one can call for more limited action (as this has not been balloted for such a call would be unlawful in any case and, were it not corrected subsequently with a call for strike action it would have to be repudiated).

From the point at which the entire TUC rose to give our General Secretary a standing ovation our course has been set. Unless the Government backs down, we strike on 30 November - and will strike again until they do.

Everyone must do all they can to maximise the power and impact of our action, whether that is by giving clear and unequivocal backing to a Central London demonstration on the first strike day (which obviously cannot draw away all pickets but is an essential ingredient in maximising the media and political impact of our action) or by making crystal clear that UNISON expects every member to strike when called upon to do so.

Regular readers Sid and Doris Blogger will have got the message I hope.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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