Sunday, 17 June 2007

Can the Left start thinking out of the box?

For the last two years workers in Britain - especially in public sectors - have faced some of the most devastating attacks on their conditions and pay that has been seen since Thatcher. In the Civil Service tens of thousands of jobs have been decimated, working conditions have been savaged, and stress levels have soared as fewer workers are forced to do more and more work as they try and cope with new systems that totally fail to deliver.

They haven't been alone in these attacks, as Pension rights have been slashed across the public sector, and now we have the prospect of imposed pay settlements at way below inflation rates.

Privatisation and outsourcing are creeping across the board in every wake of life.

Rarely can there have been such concerted attacks on workers since Thatcher - and yet where has the reaction been? Where has the resistance been?

We have the usual ineffectual day strikes, the small rallys and lots of big talk from Union leaders who try and lead their troops up the hill before leading them back down again battered and demoralised.

In the meantime the multi-nationals, the financial institutions and the Labour leadership sit pretty raking in profits and presteige at our expense.

Just how much can be attained by the current craven union leadership aproach to this struggle, and how many one day strikes and rallys will it take for the govt to concede that they are wrong?

If they can laugh off 250,000 people marching on a Stop the War March with its attendent big rally and speeches, will it be able to resist a fraction of that number marching to complain about cuts in working rights?

How should the looming Autumn of discontent be presented in a way that can actually produce results rather than empty rhetoric and sell out?


ian said...

Industrial action doesnt just happen , it is organised for. This isnt just by producing a leaflet advertising a protest date/stike date and then expecting people to just turn up.

The organising campaign currently being worked amongst the Low paid cleaners in the city of London by the TGWU (UNITE) is a brilliant example of how it should be done. The T&G has for the past couple of years developed an organising department with a diverse force of organisers who are trained to build self sustaining workplace organisation. This organisation evolves completely around building action up to and including industrial action.Better membership retention results from a consistent cycle of organising activity .

Other Unions would be wise to take heed of the T&G experience. In my view this initiative if used in local government and in the NHS would challenge the government attacks more constructively than the current campaign.

E10 Rifle said...

All action should be co-ordinated - something that has been lacking in the past - so it's all on the same day. The last thing we need is more half-arsed tokenistic one-day strikes that lack across-the-board support. Actions should also seek to reach out to the public (service users, customers, call them what you will) and seek to involve user groups in some way. We need to disarm the familiar claim that unions are "holding the country to ransom and that it's poor old Joe Public who misses out".

And, as ian says, it requires the building up of a self-sustaining workplace organising culture - so that people feel they're taking control of the situation themselves rather than simply being called out by a remote central union leadership.

This site could be a good collating point for people's different industrial struggles. My own union, the NUJ, is working on organising a 'day of action' on November 5 against the swingeing cuts endemic in the industry and in defence of journalistic standards. Be good to get 'pan-movement' support, and indeed ideas and contributions, for it too.

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Owen said...

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