Tuesday 28th March could see strike action by one and a half million workers across more than nine different unions. The strike has been provoked by an attack on the local government pension scheme, with the labour government planning to increase the age workers can retire at.
With this attack workers will lose the right to retire at 60 – a right that had been established for those with more than 25 years service. Many of these are low paid workers who statistically die earlier.
The strike will involve workers in councils, schools, police authorities, further and higher education, environment agencies, and privatised companies whose workers used to be part of local government. The strike will stretch way beyond local government, involving transport workers such as toll collectors on bridges as well as many bus drivers in cities such as Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Airports such as Leeds airport will also be shut by the strike. March 28th 2006 could therefore be the largest strike in Britain since the 1926 general strike.
Britain has seen 20 years of defeats for the Trades Union movement, as each group of strikers stood alone. The strike over pensions could be different, as it involves so many different groups of workers acting together. It could also provide an example to many other groups of workers in privately own industry who are also seeing their pension rights attacked.
Grassroots activists hope that towns and cities across the country will see multiple picket lines, marches and rallies bringing the strikers together and increasing their confidence and sense of class-consciousness. Experienced militants consider that one day’s strike, however impressive, is unlikely to shift the government and its capitalist backers. Therefore they argue that Tuesday 28th of March has to be just the start. Union leaders are also now talking about more action, with the general secretary of Unison, one the biggest unions saying: "We are digging in for the long term. This will not be one day of action - a whole range will be considered including further days of strikes and selective action."
Rank and file union members are keen to hold these leaders to their words, making sure that they do not call the strike off, but escalate it. They think that rallies and pickets can be a step towards involving the maximum amount of workers in the running of the strike, which they hope would be a major ingredient leading to victory.
By BK for libcom.org news