Unlike the June 30 and March 28 strikes (in which we had also not taken action ourselves) I couldn't get away from work in the branch even for long enough to visit picket lines.
And yet, in another sense, almost everything I did at work today was intimately related to today's action.
I met with two shop stewards whose members are at risk of outsourcing to discuss how we should resist this. The fragmentation of our public services (even in its cuddly "co-operative" guise) is driven by the Government, whose deliberate cheapening of our pensions is motivated precisely by a desire to encourage and facilitate privatisation.
I met with a member dealing with impossible workloads created by the imposition of spending cuts on services already struggling to cope. Put a foot wrong in those circumstances and it's the worker who'll be hauled over the coals - not the people who created the circumstances. There but for the grace of whatever grace you believe in go so many of our members, asked to work longer each week, doing more with less (just as we shall be expected to work longer into old age whilst paying more for less). The intolerable working conditions of many of our members are made worse by cuts derived from the selfsame kamikaze project of deficit reduction as informs the assault upon our pensions.
I met with two redundant workers to discuss their tribunal claims. Their dismissals were also a product of precisely the economic policies of the Coalition Government who demand we work to 68 whilst paying higher contributions from our frozen pay. Their plight will be that of thousands more until we mobilise the strength we have to stop this illegitimate Government in its tracks.
Throughout the day I was in more or less constant discussion with other union members and representatives about individual and collective issues, almost every one of which had its origins in Government policy - policy of the Government that declared war on our pensions.
Every thing I tried to do today I could have done better had UNISON continued to lend our strength to the fight to resist the attack on public sector pensions. If we want to deliver for our members in our everyday work it is essential that we reverse the defeatism which has taken hold at the UNISON Centre.
The Coalition Government are not mounting a series of separate discrete attacks upon working class people and our trade union movement. They are engaged upon an all-out offensive across a number of fronts. We need to understand the need for a unified resistance to this unified attack not just because such understanding will better inform our campaigning response, but because it is equally essential to inform our daily practice as trade union representatives.
Well done to all those who struck today.
UNISON reps who don't believe we can resurrect our fight for fair pensions, and who will resign themselves (perhaps because they are within ten years of retirement) to retirement at 68 for younger members, to cheaper career average pensions and to the multi-billion pound theft of the switch to CPI uprating, need to recognise that, in so doing, they will weaken our union in every other way and worsen our ability to protect our members.
It really is all one struggle. We really do need to stand together.
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