Trade unionists in Cambridgeshire have taken the first steps in coordinating the strike action taking place on 30 November by establishing a county-wide cross-union strike committee.
The committee involves activists from unions taking action and both the Cambridge and District and Huntingdon Trades Councils.
The initiative came from a joint motion from Unison Cambridgeshire County Branch, the county’s largest trade union, and the PCS Customs and Revenue Branch, which was debated at a recent Trades Council meeting.
Steve Sweeney of Huntingdon and St. Neots Trades Union Council spoke to Solidarity in a personal capacity. He said:
“The committee is an important step in the fight against the Con-Dem coalition and will arm the labour movement in the struggles ahead. The strike will not be won or lost in one day. We will not wake up on 1 December with the Tories conceding defeat. It is essential that the strike is democratically controlled by the rank-and-file and that is the essence of the strike committee. We need to raise the political level and understand the nature of the pensions assault in the context of the crisis of capitalism. The action can be a galvanising point for workers and draw new layers into the Trades Council. The strike committee can help the Trades Council and labour movement become the central point in the anti-cuts fight, arming our class with the ideas to advance the struggle.
“The building blocks are in place and the idea is for the strike committee to extend beyond November 30th. The first meeting was a positive step with many new faces from different unions. We discussed the day itself and agreed that there should be a march and rally in Cambridge with feeder marches from major workplaces such as Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Shire Hall. While these are important as a show of strength and solidarity, the motion agreed to organise a meeting on the day of the strike. The purpose of this was for a rank-and-file meeting discussing the politics of the strike and the way forward, accepting motions rather than a top down rally style meeting with the usual faces repeating the usual phrases.
“The strike committee will see increased solidarity from other unions and be a forum for debate and sharing of ideas. Branch industrial action committees will feed into the cross-union strike committee, which will meet fortnightly, and vice-versa. There is a long time between now and 30 November, but Cambridgeshire trade unionists have started organising for the future struggle.”
The Cambridgeshire plans are a positive model for the labour movement to follow. They establish a structure through which rank-and-file trade unionists can provide a counterweight to the union bureaucracy, and a forum in which ideas about how to fight to win beyond 30 November can be discussed. This model has the potential to transcend the disconnected, “next-big-day” approach (26 March, then 30 June, then 2 October, then 30 November…), and create strategies to win this battle.
The labour movement in other parts of the country should take note.