Please note the next meeting of Plymouth Trades Union Council will be held on Tuesday 3rd January 2012 at 171 Armada Way 7pm - you can park free on the roof of Sainsburys car park opposite (the underneath car park closes at 9pm, so don’t go there). The venue has had to be changed due to us being unable to use the Thompsons Offices any more because of a Unite meeting. Future meetings of PTUC will be at 171 unless another trade union can offer free premises.
We face a critical and deeply disturbing situation in 2012. There is no more “business as usual”.
On 1st December, we were collectively celebrating a successful mass strike. We’d achieved superb working unity across 28 unions. We had massive public support, with people increasingly glad to see anyone fighting against a vicious Tory government. We had significant and growing support from private sector workers – for the same reasons. We got the government rattled.
A few weeks on, and we’re in real trouble. November 30th needed to be the first step in building a serious fight to roll back all the attacks we face – and, I’d like to think, the first step in ditching a government that is the enemy of workers. Instead, we’ve got the General Secretary of the TUC and the General Secretary of the biggest public sector union desperately scrabbling around to achieve any kind of a settlement (no matter what the cost to their members and other workers). We can still pull this situation back and rebuild this fight, but we’re not in the situation of strength of a few weeks ago.
The working class is facing a massive betrayal that risks tearing the heart out of our movement. The question for the Left is, are we fighting tooth and nail to stop a sell-out? Are we standing shoulder to shoulder with PCS, and doing so publicly and proudly? Are we working overtime to get the message to every one of our public sector members, ‘This fight goes on and the unions backs you every inch of the way?’.
Be honest about what this Tory Government is about. There are six million public sector workers in the UK. A majority are union members. Almost all public sector workplaces are unionised and have trade union recognition. Union density is close to four times higher than the average in the private sector. It’s easy to miss the importance of this in a primarily private sector union, but public sector workers are at the heart of the trade union movement.
The attacks on public sector workers aren’t an accident. We all know that the Tories are trying to make workers pay for the bankers’ crisis. The reality, though, is something rather more systematic than this. We have a government that’s trying to smash the organised working class. I can remember back to Thatcher, the Ridley plan, and the salami tactics of taking on workers a section at a time – culminating in the catastrophic defeat of the 84/85 miners strike.
We’re now seeing Cameron’s equivalent. Cameron’s rather bolder than Thatcher, with a plan of going in hard and wiping out trade union organisation in the public sector core of our movement. The plan will have been many years in the making.
They’ve already given the game away about what happens next:
710,000 public sector jobs going,
the imposition of regional and local pay,
the removal of facility time from public sector reps,
a further two years of pay cuts,
a continuing assault on public sector services, and
privatisation of the public sector on a massive scale.
This is no secret – they’re arrogant enough to boast about it. If we don’t fight and win on pensions, we can be very certain what their intentions are.
If the Tories get away with this level of destruction in the relatively well organised public sector areas of our movement, this will have terrible implications for private sector and voluntary sector trade unionists? Plymouth, as one of the most deprived areas of the UK depends very heavily on the public sector both for jobs and to hold up pay rates.
Bring in regional pay, ditch a load of public sector jobs, privatise everything that moves – this drives down pay across the board, for all workers.
Slash spending for services – that cripples the voluntary sector too.
Smash up facility time and national pay bargaining and decent working conditions in the public sector, and there’ll be plenty of private sector bosses who will follow that example. And maybe most important, what about the impact on confidence?
If we allow a high profile defeat for six million public sector workers, there is a strong risk that the message goes out loud and clear to other workers, ‘We can’t win, there’s no point in fighting’.
The Plymouth Trades Union Council cannot stand aside and watch this happen. If this turns into a defeat, it is a massive, massive defeat for the trade union movement as a whole. It is unthinkable.
And what about the message that’s going out to our own public sector members? The public service Pensions dispute will have far reaching consequences, whether we win it or lose it. The outcome will shape the future for our movement as a whole for very many years to come.
That is why the PTUC has called a local Conference, yet few union branches of activists have responded to the call. If Unity is Strength, then we need to meet-up and get organised.
Please come to our meeting on Tuesday night, and sign-up to the local Conference as soon as possible.