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Marching is not enough - We need national strike action
worker & community struggles and protests |
Tuesday February 24, 2009 11:50 by Alan MacSimoin - Workers Solidarity Movement
The economy's crashing, the dole queues are growing. Yet the bankers, bosses and developers responsible are untouchable - because the politicians supposed to hold them to account had their noses in the same trough. So-called experts bluster to cover their confusion, make tut-tut noises about corruption and greed, then shake their heads and agree, that in the end its the ordinary workers and taxpayers that will have to foot the bill. Because that's just the way it has to be...
So we get a 1% levy, then the pensions levy (which is really just a big pay cut), then more cuts in jobs and services like buses and hospitals. We don’t have to accept this. A campaign of strike action when we shut down our workplaces will show our strength and show that we mean business.
We need a unified day of strike action across the entire public sector to demand total withdrawal of this pay cut. We don’t want it merely made less severe, we want it completely scrapped.
Of course, one day of strike action is unlikely to be enough win this. It needs to be followed up with an ongoing campaign of strike action. For instance this could consist of one day’s action across the public sector one week, followed by two days the following week, three days the week after.
The low paid Civil and Public Service Union gave a lead with their national strike on February 26th. Ballots have been taken by bus workers, civil servants, teachers; and all delivered a resounding vote for strike action.
Whatever we choose to do, we need to work out a strategy to win. Trade union leaders have sold us the myth of ‘social partnership’ for the last 21 years. We need to build an alternative sense of solidarity whereby workers across all unions support each other.
The bosses are not our partners, our fellow workers can be.
The government will be happy enough if all we do is have protest marches and issue angry press statements. They won’t even be too upset by isolated strike days in different jobs.
It is time for the trade union movement to stand up and defend the interests of working people as vigorously as the government and the state is defending the interests of the bankers and the employers. 260,000 public sector workers, the vast majority of whom are union members, can close down the country. That is the sort of short, sharp action that can force them to withdraw the pay cuts.
On New Year’s Day the SIPTU Executive said “In this our centenary year, we salute the courage, personal sacrifice, commitment and solidarity of the women and men who founded, built and sustained this great trade union. We are proud of the organisation of tens of thousands of men and women, the improvement of pay and conditions of work…
“In solidarity with each other, the members of our Union have confronted exploitation and injustice and have sought to transform society so that all our people enjoy dignity and respect at work and in the community.”
That’s the sort of tradition we need to build on. Unfortunately, many senior union leaders don’t see it like that. They are happy for us to “let off steam” and “make a point”, all they want is a show of support so they can go back into talks in the hope of being given some small concession.
People like IMPACT’s Peter McLoone with his €150,000 a year, plus €25,000 as chair of FAS, do not share the same interests as their members. That is why the top union officials on the ICTU executive can say, “workers did not create the problem, but will contribute to solving it…”
They accept the system as it is. They aren’t calling for a claw back of the €8 billion in tax breaks given to private for-profit hospitals, or for nationalising the Corrib gas field. Why? Would it be because they think that seizing wealth from the super-rich is going too far?
When ICTU was talking to the government about the ‘Framework Agreement’, they accepted the need for cuts. When Fianna Fail and the Greens proposed a pay cut of 10%, the ICTU delegation suggested a ‘pension levy’ as being more acceptable.
These people cannot be trusted. Taking back control of OUR unions is part and parcel of the fight to protect what we have won over the years.
Capitalism is failing us; once more it is dragging us all into a crisis not of our making. This crisis is deep and the recession is likely to last for several years. If we don’t fight back, we might as well resign ourselves to ever decreasing incomes. If we don’t start fighting to end the rule of the billionaires, we will never get away from the insecurity of the boom/slump cycle.
It is true that if we fight we may not win everything we want, there are a lot of illusions in the ICTU leaders and we have gone through two decades with little experience of struggle. It is absolutely certain, however, that if we don’t fight we will win nothing.