The declaration by the Trades Union Congress that Wednesday 30 November will be the next “day of action” in the campaign against government pension cuts is enormously positive and must now be a key focus for organising.
Like the June 30 strike, action in November will demonstrate to a generation of working-class people unused to seeing their class move as a visible social force that workers have real power to act in our own interests.
It is also positive and important that senior union officials are talking up the need for sustained action. On 20 July, Unite regional organiser Ian Woodland, whose members at Southampton city council are due to enter a fifth month of battle against Tory cuts, told Solidarity “we want the wider movement to observe and learn from our experience. It’s very clear to us that the one day strike is no more.”
It appears the pressure of experience may have told on national unions. The GMB’s Brian Strutton said: “We’re not talking about a day out and a bit of a protest. We’re talking about something that’s long and hard and dirty as well, because this is going to require days of action running through the winter, through into next year, following the government’s legislative programme right into the summer.”
Trade-union activists must now step up the pressure to hold union leaders to their word. We have had such fighting talk from union leaders before. In advance of the June 2011 conference of the public service union Unison, its leader Dave Prentis was full of bombastic talk about levels of industrial action exceeding the 1984-5 miners’ strike. Then he kept Unison out of the 30 June strike and, until recently, was signalling to Unison members that any ballots were unlikely before the end of the year.
Local activists and committees should start organising now for 30 November and after, not waiting for the leaders.