Monday, March 19, 2012

Where will M28 lead?

A quick look at the list of UK Motorways (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motorways_in_the_United_Kingdom) does not disclose the existence of the M28 (although who knows what the future may bring given Cameron's eighteenth century enthusiasm for private sector roadbuilding!)

What does now appear clear is that M28 - in terms of strike action over public sector pensions on Wednesday of next week - will take place all but exclusively within the M25, and also exclusively among members of the Teachers Pension Scheme in the NUT (http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/15321) and UCU (http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6028).

Today's decision by the Executive of PCS not to take national action alone next Wednesday, but to try to build for wider action next month (http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/news_centre/index.cfm/id/7E5803E8-61A6-4D53-A3005D555BF3A0E6) can certainly not be criticised by a member of the Executive of a trade union which has retreated so much further - and so much faster - from further co-ordinated industrial action on this vital question.

Aside from a glimmer of hope in the Scottish Health Service (http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/pensions/nhsstrikes.html), UNISON's leadership have - at least for now - decisively withdrawn from the position at the head of our movement which had been held in the three months following last September's TUC mini-Congress.

Those of us in Greater London must do all we can now to support, and show solidarity with, the teachers and lecturers planning to strike on Wednesday 28 March.

With the imposition of the "pensions tax" contribution increases on many teachers, civil servants and health workers now imminent - and local government workers kept in ignorance of proposals, not yet approved by Ministers, which were supposed to provide the basis for agreement of the "big ticket" items by the end of this month - it is no exaggeration to say that we stand on the brink of a calamity.

If, after the largest and most effective strike in a generation, we withdraw from further action in return for (at least in three out of four pension schemes) no more than a repackaging of the "offer" which we rightly rejected when it was made on 2 November, then we are offering this Government a sort of "accelerated 80s".

Whereas the 80s saw the Government and employers choose and win a series of battles with the trade union movement - with ASLEF over flexible rostering, with the ISTC, most notably with the NUM over pit closures, but then with the NUT and, of course, the print unions - it seems that the second decade of this century may deliver to Thatcher's children victories equivalent to those which took her Government a decade in a single Parliamentary term - and with barely "a shot fired in anger."

This outcome is not inevitable. We can still make our own history, albeit not in circumstances of our own choosing. Teachers and lecturers in Greater London find themselves to be the workers who have drawn a line and said that the retreat must stop here.

Every activist in the NUT and UCU in London who is now carrying out the thankless task of trying to persuade members to make the sacrifice of further strike action deserves the thanks and respect of every other trade unionist. The leadership of our movement is not now to be found on the General Council of the TUC (and has certainly never been found at Congress House) - it is in the NUT and UCU branches in London.

It's a good job the M28 isn't a Motorway because we need to take this chance to push our movement into a complete U-turn from the path of capitulation which we having been speeding down for the past three months. UNISON branches in London local government - and Higher Education - who have members working alongside next week's strikers must apply ourselves imaginatively to the question of how we can help.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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