A recent decision by the leadership of the Unite union’s health section to “aim for” another strike over pensions on 10 May offers a glimmer of hope in the battle to revive a national industrial campaign on the issue.
NHS workers in Unite voted by 94% to reject the government’s pensions deal, but Unite officials mobilised against left-wingers on its National Industrial Sector Committees (NISCs) to prevent the union giving a lead on, or participating in, strike action since 30 November. According to Gill George, a Socialist Workers’ Party member on the health NISC, there has been a “change of emphasis” from the union officialdom, which is now taking a more positive stance towards the possibility of further action.
However, the exact details of the health NISC’s decision have not been made public. Socialist Worker reports it as “calling for” (rather than straightforwardly “calling”) another strike, and Gill George’s report to the United Left grouping within Unite says that the decision was to “aim for” another strike on 10 May.
At various points throughout the pensions dispute, various unions have talked about such “aims”, and it has amounted to nothing. Unite activists must fight to make the general “aim” for a strike on 10 May a reality, and activists in other unions should fight to push their unions into involvement on 10 May too.
Meanwhile, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), the only union in Britain led by people who consider themselves revolutionary socialists, has announced that “the next stage in [its] national campaign” on pensions will be… “co-ordinated lobbying of MPs”. The union is issuing guidance to members on how to lobby their MP.
We will leave it to Solidarity readers to decide whether this is likely to frighten the government into a last-minute reversal, and indeed whether this strategy matches up with the PCS and its Socialist Party leaders’ much-vaunted self-description as a “fighting union”.