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Council workers strike

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Vaneigemappreci...
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Apr 2 2006 12:55
Council workers strike

I dont know if WTY has already written something for Black Star on the Council Workers strike, if not heres something which plagarises heavily from the mighty libcom with a little added extra:

Tuesday 28th March 2006 witnessed over a million workers take part in the largest one-day strike in Britain since the General Strike of 1926. Every town, city and borough in the country saw workers abstain from work and set up picket lines in defence of their existing pension rights.

The Government is hoping to do away with council workers current deal that allows them to retire at 60 providing they have had at least 25 years service with the council. This assault on council workers rights is part of a wider global assault on welfare, employment rights and the environment being enacted by the worlds rich and powerful in order to maximise profits and weaken working class resistance by any means at hand.

However these attacks have provoked waves of resistance around the globe and on Tuesday 28th March workers in both Britain and across the channel in France took to the streets and went on strike in order to defend their rights from the attacks of their respective governments. Whilst students fought with police lines in Paris and workers across France stopped work in opposition to a new law that would give employers the right to dismiss any worker under the age of 26 without reason or excuse; workers in Britain closed local amenities and transport routes in a show of resistance to Government ambitions to abolish Rule 85 which allows some council workers to retire at 60. Across England striking workers were able to shut down all Mersey road and ferry crossings, along with the Tyne road tunnel, the Humber Bridge and Thames Barrier. In Scotland the Strikers made both the Forth and Tay toll road bridges free for the day.

The reaction from business leaders and their friends in the tabloids was one of unanimous incredulity and disdain. Sir Digby Jones, director of the CBI, appointed “Voice of Business” and hideously bloated by his wealth declared the strike “a disgrace”. Another hack from the Daily Mail stated that the strike was a “defence of privilege”! This hysterical reaction to the massive show of strength by over a million council workers gives an indication of the true potential power of the working class to change the world when they stand together.

While the strike signifies a relative high point in union action in what has been a period of submission and amicable collaboration with the political establishment it shouldn’t be applauded without perspective. Britain’s workers have seen 20 years of defeats as each group of workers has stood alone and been forced into fighting a brave if forlorn defensive position against wave after wave of degrading and divisive government reforms.

While we hope that Tuesday March 28th will mark the start of a new wave of working class resistance and fight we must understand, without illusions that a one-day strike is unlikely to unnerve the Government or its wealthy backers. We must also realise that the many defeats and regressive reforms imposed on us over recent years have been helped in no small part by the actions of those who claim to represent our interests as workers. Despite making a show of opposition to government attacks, Union Bosses have more often than not collaborated with government to impose these reforms by showing lip service to their members and asking for the attacks to be watered down in their severity. Thus we end up with government attacks being accepted with slight alterations in their wording or paltry concessions to the workers being made. It is thought that local government union leaders hope to secure a similar deal to that negotiated with other public sector unions which would see existing pensions being protected whilst the right to retire at 60 would be taken away for new workers. Such half measures only help the government in seeing through their business driven reforms and leave new workers open to attack. These sort of submissions to government attacks have left the working class fighting a losing battle on a purely defensive footing.

The attack on pensions which is taking place in the private and public sector is an audacious effort by business to pass the costs of market and government failings onto workers in order to maintain and maximise existing profits. The Government hopes to tackle the pensions shortfall by extending the imposition of work meaning an increase in retirement age for the vast majority of workers. Telling people that because they are living longer they must work longer in today’s age of material and technological affluence is a plain insult. Whilst company directors are able to take early retirement with million pound bonuses and lucrative pension schemes stolen from the proceeds of our own labour we are told by politicians and media hacks that we must sacrifice more of our life to business and carry on working until we drop. It is known that low paid workers are likely to die much earlier than their wealthy bosses as the strains of eking out an existence and maintaining some sort of financial stability take their toll. It is in this climate of exploitation and insecurity that the Government hopes to land another blow on the proletariat.

If March 28th gave us a fleeting indication of the potential power of the working class to disrupt and oppose the existing order and their attacks then we must build and develop this power in order that the government is unable to implement any more regressive reforms. If we are to realise this potential the first step must be to ensure that attempts to divide us along lines of age or what sector we work in are overcome. If we accept minor alterations to reforms that allow one set of workers a brief reprieve whilst undermining the conditions of younger workers or stand alone as “private sector” or “public sector” workers then we can be sure that the attacks will continue to erode those few rights we are allowed and our condition as a class will weaken. If we are to fight for real, lasting victories against our employers then there must be no divisions between young and old workers, private sector or public sector workers, immigrant or national workers nor decision-makers and those who follow orders. The first step in realising our potential power as workers is to understand that we are at our strongest not only when we are united but when we act without restraint in our own interests, without the hindering intervention of divisive union leaders who would sell our interests in exchange for a friendly handshake from number ten. We look forward to workers in England and France resisting these sets of degrading reforms with every tactic in our artillery, withdrawing our labour, taking to the streets and bringing the country to a standstill by whatever means necessary to defend and strengthen our position and to take the fight to our employers.