61% voted in favour of strikes, with 83% voting in favour of action short of a strike. This is an excellent mandate for action, although it falls short of the 92% yes vote from NUT members. It shows us that the mood for resistance is their amongst public sector workers.
In Birmingham, we wait now for the result from Unison who are balloting 9,000 council workers for strikes on the 29th and 30th June to find out just how big the strike will be on that day locally.
Like the teachers, PCS members are taking industrial action over changes to the pension scheme, which will see them contribute more, work longer and get less once they retire.
Cuts to pensions form just one part of the attack on public services being carried out by this government, and this action is taken in the context of the austerity agenda being foisted on this country by an ideological government committed to neo-liberalism and a small state, and perfectly happy to let vulnerable people fend for themselves instead of us all working together to provide the best life for everyone.
The right wing press have already been running articles designed to soften the support for these strikes. They portray strikers as selfish public sector workers, who have already got it so goodbut aren’t content with that. They compare the “gold-plated” public sector pensions (average around £4,000 per year) to the poor private sector provision.
We need to be prepared to defend striking workers here – not in terms of the workers, but in terms of everyone else.
Thise strikes are being undertaken to defend services – an attack on the pay and conditions of public sector workers is an attack on the services themselves, as reducing the rewards for a job disincentivises it. We need to be arguing against making this a race to the bottom when we hear people talking about how public sector pensions are so great and why should they have it so good when the rest of us are suffering. And it is clearly not fair that public sector workers often have better pensions than private sector workers – but the answer to that is not to make public sector pensions worse, it is to improve private sector pensions.
The cuts are not inevitable. There are alternatives. These strikes are part of the wider struggle against austerity and need to be seen as such. The money is around, the wealthiest thousand people continued to rack up wealth last year, whilst working class people lose jobs and face pay freezes or cuts, and welfare reforms that seek to be removing the final safety nets in our society. We need to resist the cuts and make sure that the agenda changes. Join us on the 30th June to continue this struggle.