After the latest in a series of general strikes hitting Greece, what is awaiting Britain on 30 June?
With the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the University and College Union (UCU) all striking, Thursday’s strike is shaping up to be one the biggest in decades.
Placed within the larger anti-cuts movement, this co-ordinated strike action has been called to combat the specific issue of pensions reform. NUT Outer London National Executive, Nick Grant, fundamentally points out that the Teachers Pension Scheme is “not actually in deficit”, with savings being made on it after changes were introduced in early 2007. According to him, talks with government members have thus far come to little avail. The best offers proposed by them, suggest new teachers’ pensions could face cuts of anything from 40 percent to 52 percent.
The government argues that such cuts are fundamental to the reduction of the national deficit…
This scenario is echoed across the public sector and Europe. State pensions are currently poised at £102 a week, hardly sufficient when the official poverty line is placed at £170. The government argues that such cuts are fundamental to the reduction of the national deficit and will not have the disastrous affects touted by union bosses. A 92 percent yes vote for the strike on a 40percent voter turn out, the highest NUT has had in 20 years, would suggest that workers disagree.
Both leading political parties have come out against the strikes, arguing that striking is not the answer. Although none of the above unions are affiliated with the Labour Party, Ed Miliband’s position on Thursday’s strike defined his party’s continued stance against the working class community. All major parties and politicians have stressed the unnecessary nature of the strike, with Michael Gove playing the ‘thinking of the children’ morality card.
…a step towards validating collective action and the potency of the working class…
Britain’s strong anti-strike culture has led workers themselves to doubt the need and timing of the strike. Bred by national media outlets just as much as big business bosses, the ideological idea of discipline and ‘discussion’ has fuelled the demonisation of organised labour and their demands. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS, is one of many to point out the government’s unmovable stance on key questions such as the change in indexation from RPI to CPI, which is projected to cost a retired worker up to 15% of their total income.
While the banking sector goes largely unnoticed, the media witch-hunt against the unions is likely to continue. Thursday’s strike should be a step towards validating collective action and the potency of the working class, healing wounds that run back to the 1980s.
Image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass