The trades unions in the pensions dispute need a united strategy for winning, giving confidence to the millions of workers involved that stepping up the fight would take them beyond ‘protest’ to real success.  This would strike a real blow to the ConDems’ escalating attacks on workers writes CP chair, Bill Greenshields.

The Government clearly aims to defeat public sector unions as a political priority. Thus, in the light of the unions’ unity expressed on November 30th, it predictably attempts to sow seeds of division, under the pretext of individual “negotiations”.   The “Autumn Statement” on the very day before the November strike was not a statement from a Government that was seeking a negotiated settlement. Public sector job loss estimates were increased from 500,000 to 750,000 – and real terms pay cuts were extended by a further two years. This was a deliberate and calculated provocation. 
 
It was clear to all from that time, if not before, that the Government wanted a major battle, that it thought it could win, hoping to leave public sector unions divided and very much weakened.
 
Their attack on public services - the undermining of pension schemes being a necessary precursor of privatisation - mirrors Thatcher’s attack on the big private sector industrial bases in the 1980s. Then and now, workers and their unions needed to respond quickly and powerfully. But to win on pensions we need a clear strategy that goes well beyond one day strikes and demonstrations, important as these are.
 
No union leadership could possibly have believed at the beginning of the dispute that one or two day strikes would defeat the government attacks. Nothing has changed since the unions first united in their plans for co-ordinated strike action… except that, to the dismay of the government,  public sector workers have responded magnificently to the call and have shown that they have widespread public support – notably strongest amongst 18-25 year olds… the key to the future. Their fighting spirit has inspired more millions, and laid the groundwork for a major success in defending working people against this most reactionary government.
 
Government inspired division between the unions could though lead to defeat on pensions, and would give “the green light” to the government and the ruling class it represents to go on to further attacks – with regionalised pay in the public sector probably their next step, again preparing the way for massive privatisation.
 
The public sector unions need now to build on the great success of the action so far, and agree a united strategy for winning – including co-ordinated rolling strikes across sectors and regions, targeted indefinite action by key workers whose work is directly essential to the state machine, and the development of co-ordinated action with workers in the private sector on their own issues of dispute with their employers of which there are many. The issues of pensions, pay and unemployment affect workers in all sectors in the current circumstances.
 
Increasingly generalised strike action, backed by community support, would directly confront the Government’s general policy of attacking workers and destroying public services – and the divisions that they try to foster in our movement would almost certainly appear in their own ranks. 
 
At the same time as such developing action, trades councils - together with The People’s Charter – are to be considering action in the new year all round Britain against escalating unemployment, providing opportunities to unions and communities to unite for “the alternative”.
 
We have to make absolutely clear that this unelected Coalition of millionaires has no legitimacy, cobbling together as is does two failed parties with no electoral mandate, taking orders from the City and the big monopolies, and willingly following European Union “austerity” to protect those interests.
 
The Government is pursuing a war against workers, now well underway. Trade Union leaders have a huge responsibility to maintain the unity and momentum of our movement if we are to defeat that government before it succeeds in inflicting even more damage on us. 
 
History is in the making. It will recognise the tremendous role of public sector workers and their leaders in this struggle – but will not forgive any gullible enough to fall for the obvious “divide and rule” tactics of government. 
 
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