TUC must call action!

Submitted by martin on 7 July, 2010 - 1:52

The European Trade Union Confederation has called a "no to cuts" day of action for Wednesday 29 September.

Already Spanish unions have planned a general strike for that day. There will be a big demonstration of workers from across Europe in Brussels. Unions in other European countries will schedule actions.

British trade unionists should demand that the TUC call a day of action to link up with other workers across Europe.

In Britain, 29 September falls in the middle of Labour Party conference, in Manchester. The TUC should ask the Labour Party to suspend conference proceedings for an afternoon and have conference delegates join a trade-union demonstration against cuts through the city.

If the TUC as such will not move, then the more active unions should get together to sponsor a day of action.

The work of building towards that day of action will cross-fertilise with immediate battles against cuts which are already under way.

Councils across the country are already chopping services and declaring redundancies.

Schools face resources being siphoned off to new Academies - in this government's plan, prospering schools which are allowed effectively to privatise themselves while receiving public cash. Some schools are already cutting support staff. Over seven hundred schools have had their rebuilding or refurbishment cancelled.

In the Health Service, the Royal College of Nursing reports that 9,973 posts (an average of 47 every day) were lost in the first six months of this year through recruitment freezes, redundancies, and staff not being replaced when they retired. That was mostly before the general election, under Labour. Things will get worse now.

Government departments have been asked to prepare plans for 40% cuts, even bigger than the 25% across the board announced by George Osborne in the Budget on 22 June.

The Government already calculates that it probably cannot squeeze as much cash as it wants from departmental service cuts. It is openly talking about even bigger cuts in benefits than those already announced.

Apparently in a move to take on and (the Lib/Tories hope) "take out" the civil service union PCS, the Government has announced drastic cuts in redundancy entitlements for civil service workers.

The Times on 5 July reported that "Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, met Boris Johnson [mayor of London] ten days ago to discuss the need for new [legal] curbs on industrial action...

"A Tory source told The Times that the Cabinet is 'feeling inclined to be very bullish and aggressive' about confronting strikes'...

"A Cabinet member has confirmed that the coalition intends to re-examine the law [on strikes] if job losses and changes to pay and conditions lead to widespread industrial unrest... Sources suggest wider sympathy within Government for... raising the proportion of workers required to vote for a strike before it takes place".

The plan from the bosses' federation, the CBI, is to require 40% of the balloted workforce, as well as a majority of those voting, before industrial action is lawful. But if a majority had to include 40% of those entitled to vote, the Government would not have been allowed to take office!

Battles on all these fronts cannot wait until 29 September. But preparation for a day of action can show each group of workers that they can become part of a bigger fight back.

The TUC has not yet taken a decision on a day action. On the contrary, its last General Council meeting decided... to invite David Cameron to the TUC congress in September!

The proposal to invite Cameron was put to the General Council by TUC secretary Brendan Barber, without prior notice to most Council members. Billy Hayes of CWU and Paul Kenny of GMB immediately supported Barber. Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union and Tony Burke of Unite objected, but the invitation went through.

The "reasoning", so we're told, is that the trade union movement has to be seen to be reasonable and open-minded, and not get "marginalised" by the new Government.

It's as if your landlord assaults your house with bricks through the windows, and you respond by inviting him indoors for tea and cakes.

Local Trades Councils have revived, to one degree or another, in several areas recently, though many remain weak.

The government offensive makes it urgent to build up Trades Councils, and thus create links between unions at rank and file level in every locality, both giving support to groups under rapid attack and developing pressure on the top TUC leaders.

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