Leaflet distributed by Manchester Class Struggle Forum at both Manchester universities on Tuesday the 22nd of March and Thursday the 24th of March 2011.
We are now entering a critical period, our rulers’ cuts agenda is changing from something that is on the horizon to being a reality we are faced with daily. The spectre of economic crisis is forcing them to demand more and more from us in order to get their system back on its feet. We have seen this locally in the announcement of 2,000 redundancies at Manchester City Council and more generally with the publication of the Hutton report earlier this month, which puts public sector workers next in line. Faced with the appalling situation of people actually living longer (heaven forbid!) which for our bosses poses the problem of an increasing working population that is also ageing, affecting pension requirements and therefore their balance sheets. The solution they have come up with is to make workers work longer for smaller pensions whilst the concept of retirement fades further into the background as they plan to raise the standard pension age to 65 (for both men and women) in 2018 and to 66 by 2020.
This is the situation that the working class as a whole is facing. Education workers are one of the first groups of workers to take industrial action in response to the government’s austerity plans. They are faced with a plan to cut £852 million from pension schemes. This strike is in response to their latest in a series of ‘reforms’, which means workers paying more and receiving their pensions later. Indeed, it was only in 2007 when the last claw back was introduced – i.e. the inferior conditions for new employees under the ‘cap and save’ mechanism, which provides the government with savings at workers expense. This time round with an economic crisis breathing down their neck as well as increasing the pension age, they are taking more from workers in the form of increased contributions to the tune of 3%. On top of that they are switching the basis of valuation from the Retail Price Index to the much lower Consumer Price Index in order to transfer more of the burden of inflation onto workers. End result being - pensions will not keep up with inflation and will over time lose their value.
It is not just working conditions that they are attacking; it is also our living conditions, with massive cuts to basic services by local authorities.
Therefore we are destined to a future packed full of misery unless we are able to mount a real fight against these attacks and the system that demands them.
Against all divisions – a real fight is needed
It is clear that the unions are going to continue with their phoney war and their determination to not rock the boat. We see this clearly when the TUC’s idea of resistance to the attacks is an A-to-B 3 mile procession through the centre of London to once again hear the ritualised nonsense on offer. And even when unions such as UCU ballot for strike it is of a tokenistic nature of one or two one day strikes in this case. Coupled with the fact the unions sectionalism and balloting procedures have the effect of separating off academic from non-academic staff who are facing the same issues and even dividing their own members in the balloting process along institutional lines.
We appeal to all students and non-striking staff to come to the picket lines and support the strike. The limited opportunity this strike provides should be used to try and break down all the divisions that separate us, whether this is between students, workers, pensioners, private and public sector workers, academic and non-academic staff and unionised and non-unionised workers.
The threat facing all working class people is the same and it requires us to struggle in defence of our shared class interest. In order to do this it is necessary for us to overcome all barriers that are thrown up, whether it is the law of the state or unions’ rulebook. It is only then by taking collective mass action can we hope to overturn the bosses’ tide of attacks and assert our own needs and agenda.