The unprecedented national stoppage of 30 November was the best possible riposte to the Coalition’s economic statement of 29 November. Two million workers striking, marching, providing emergency cover or showing solidarity with striking colleagues was a great uplift to the people of Britain. Over 30,000 people attended the central London rally. Across Britain thousands of picket lines and hundreds of marches and rallies proclaimed that organised workers still can and will act together.
Despite over 240,000 jobs being lost in the last 12 months in the public services trade union recruitment is soaring. Those who thought unions were museum pieces are changing their minds. Picket lines across Britain were the clear sign of members taking control of their dispute, a membership taking responsibility for their own organisations and themselves.
In health, the Royal College of Nursing and British Medical Association, neither of them on strike, made their presence visible on the picket lines. Both are committed to ballot for industrial action if the December negotiations between the government and TUC are fruitless. As no offer in any pension scheme is on the table or has been during the last 8 months of talks then they need to dust off their balloting procedures. It is time both organisations affiliated to the TUC so as to demonstrate a greater trade union unity.
The government’s only plan, plan A, is rapidly collapsing around their ears as their predictions for growth tumble – 0.9 per cent for this year, reduced to 0.7 per cent in 2012. Additional taxation hitting public sector workers, along with the proposed pensions contribution increase of £3.6 billion, will add insult to injury following two years of pay freezes and the derisory 1 per cent increase for four years from 2013. This will equate to a 16 per cent cut in living standards during the existence of this government. Economic indicators of the quality and standard of living are already equating to the lowest figures since the early 1970s.
Unemployment has now hit a 17-year high of 2.62 million, with youth unemployment topping 1 million for the first time ever. Throughout this period the growing inequality over wages and pensions is harshly demonstrated. The High Pay Commission report shows the salary for the Barclays Bank chief executive rose 5,000 per cent in the last 30 years, compared to three times for the average worker. The average director’s pension in Britain’s top 100 companies is £227,000 per annum. The average public sector pension is £7,800, and £2,800 for women in local government.
We’ve already been forced to give our wages to the banks and now their government asks us to starve and freeze in old age. We need to wise up.
• As Workers went to press, the outcome of the December negotiations with the government was still unkown. ■