Cuts fight. Where? On the ground. When? Now.

Submitted by martin on 31 January, 2011 - 10:05

According to the Morning Star, a meeting of all TUC unions on 28 January "united to beat Con-Dem axemen" and "thrashed out plans" for action.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the rail union RMT, one of the TUC's most militant unions, declared that the meeting sent a "clear message" to the government.

Sadly, it's not true. The union leaders reaffirmed the TUC's 26 March demonstration against cuts - but that was already fixed - and beyond that resolved only not to rule out coordinated strikes as a "last resort".

The meeting may even have worked against industrial action, by pressing all union leaders to follow a common script in public. Talking to the press after the meeting, left-wing PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka sounded less militant than right-wing Unison leader Dave Prentis.

Serwotka said: "We are always prepared to try to reach agreement, but if the government proves unwilling to do the same then we will press ahead with our plans for industrial action". Prentis said workers would have "no choice" but to take action if the cuts went ahead.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber stressed the "concession" from the government of allowing three more months, until June, for negotiation on how it will implement, from April 2012, an average 3% rise in public sector workers' pension contributions.

The Government insists that neither the scale nor the timing of the increase is up for negotiation. Still less flexible is the Government's plan to index public sector pensions to CPI rather than RPI inflation, a move which will cut your pension 16% by the end of 25 years' retirement but was put through Parliament in June 2010 and takes effect in two months' time, in April.

The university and college lecturers' union UCU is already heading for a strike over pensions in the week before 26 March, and FBU general secretary Matt Wrack called at the 28 January meeting for a coordinated all-union day of action. Apart from that the union leaders remain focused on pensions, rather than immediate job and service cuts, as the issue for large action, and on the idea that an indeterminate stretch of "seeking negotiation" lies between now and action.

The Government responded aggressively, briefing the Guardian that "ministers are looking at raising the threshold in a strike ballot so that a strike would only be lawful if more than 50% of those entitled to vote backed a strike". (Only 23% of those entitled to vote backed the Tories in the May 2010 general election).

The core of anti-cuts strategy for a while yet will be local organisation; pressure on union leaders to encourage, support, publicise, and extend partial battles in which groups of workers feel confident to fight cuts; and turning the unions to a real public campaign for the right to strike.

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