Monday, October 13, 2014
A tale of two picket lines
I visited two of the many health service picket lines on my way to the office this morning.
The first, at St. Thomas’ Hospital, was large and lively, with sizeable contingents from UNISON, UNITE and the Royal College of Midwives (who chanted “Don’t Push Midwives. Push Our Pay”). Spirits were high in spite of the pouring rain and the picket line (given its proximity to Parliament) attracted some high profile visitors (indeed our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, had only just left when UNITE General Secretary, Len McCluskey, arrived!)
The second picket line, by contrast, outside a mental health office in Brixton, doubled in size when I joined it to support a valiant lone picket. The good humour and determination was just as evident on this picket line as it had been at St. Thomas’ though. Not all health workers work in large hospitals – but every picket line, from the largest to the smallest has contributed to the significant impact of this morning’s NHS strike.
There is no doubt that, a generation after health service workers last took national strike action over pay, we have a lot of rebuilding to do – but without doubt the way to carry this rebuilding out is to take action. In order to mobilise and motivate members we need something to mobilise for – and (having heard Dave Prentis pledge that this campaign will continue into the spring and towards the General Election) the challenge for activists will be to find forms of action which have the impact we need and will resonate with members who are not exactly familiar with industrial action over pay.
Congratulations to all health service workers who took strike action this morning – and in particular to those who stood on picket lines, whether you were in single figures or in your hundreds!