Step up the public sector strike to a general strike

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THE National Executive of the Public and Civil Servants Union (PCS) have called out their members in England on a one-day strike on Wednesday 15th October as part of three days of strikes, with health unions coming out on Monday and local government workers striking the next day.

This will be followed on Saturday October 18 with a TUC mass march through London called under the slogan ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’.

According to the PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, 250,000 members will be out over cuts in their pay which have amounted to a massive 20% since 2010.

Serwotka said: ‘These strikes show we are serious about bringing an end to pay cuts that have slashed the living standards of public servants.’

The PCS statement on the strike showed just how serious the union leadership is about fighting for its members’ pay and conditions.

It states: ‘The action on October 15 follows the successful day of action on 10 July when joint action took place with other public sector workers. Now we are stepping up the campaign with 72 hours of strike action in October aimed at securing a fair settlement.’

The question of whether or not the strikes in October represent a real stepping up of the campaign is extremely debateable.

On July 10th, over one million public sector workers united in a one-day strike while in October what is being proposed are three consecutive but separate days of strike action by three sections of the public sector.

This will appear to many workers as a retreat not an advance.

A stepping up of the action would have involved calling joint strike action by every public sector union.

Such a stepping up is beyond the leadership of the public sector unions including Serwotka, who prides himself as being a ‘left’ within the TUC.

Such a joint strike action by an alliance of public sector workers would come perilously close to being a much more generalised strike as far as the union leaderships are concerned.

Anything more than one-day strikes, or rolling strikes, would inevitably raise the demand from workers for a real fight over pay, for a general strike.

As was made clear at the TUC conference, the union leaders are determined to oppose a general strike at all costs.

Instead, as their statement demonstrates, their intention is not to wage a war with the Tory-led coalition over pay, it is ‘aimed at securing a fair settlement’ through protests and marches.

The Tories have already determined what is a fair settlement – pay cuts to the tune of 20% for civil servants to be followed by even further cuts as they try at all costs to pay off the national debt of over £1.4 trillion, a debt run up through bailing out the banks.

No amount of one-day strikes, mass marches or any other forms of protest will divert either the Tories or any future Labour government from cutting pay, privatising public services and smashing up the welfare state in order to save bankrupt British capitalism.

The immediate response of the Tories after last July’s one-day strike was to demand changes in the law that would make striking virtually illegal.

Today, the Tories are planning to rip up the constitution and bring in an English parliament with a built-in Tory majority that will be able to slash pay and privatise at will, regardless of who is elected as the government of the United Kingdom.

While the Tories are prepared to go to war against the working class to rescue British capitalism, these trade union leaders are fiddling about with protests and pleas.

The only way to step up the fight and defend every gain made by the working class is for the TUC to call its entire membership out on an indefinite general strike to bring down the government and replace it with a workers government and socialism.

This requires kicking out the old leaders and replacing them with a new, revolutionary leadership prepared to lead such a fight.