Trying to find time and energy to be a radical woman
Why the Unions are Refusing to Name a General Strike Date
The motion itself read:
“Congress welcomes the Future that Works demonstration on 20 October 2012 and recognises this as being an effective platform and foundation to resist the damaging austerity measures that are damaging the very fabric of our society in Great Britain.“
Further, Congress recognises that after the demonstration there needs to be a strong voice from all TUC affiliated unions to protect public and private sector workers, the unemployed, our children, the elderly and all those in our society who are vulnerable.“
Congress accepts that the trade union movement must continue leading from the front against this uncaring government with a coalition of resistance taking coordinated action where possible with far reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike.”
Since this motion passed there has been very little to suggest that consideration of any kind is taking place nor anything to suggest that official fightback of any kind is on the agenda. Therefore I was pretty surprised to see the topic of Unite response to this motion on July’s Young Members Committee meeting agenda – nine months after the original motion was passed.
Before I can continue with this I need to make two points:
1. Whilst I aim to keep the content of this post purely factual, it is nonetheless from a semi-personal perspective, purely because I was at the meeting in person.
2. I want to note the reasons I am making this public. I accept this will upset people, some of whom I do believe are genuine in their intentions. However I feel I have a duty to inform those who are putting their hopes and faith in the official union structures to fight on their behalf, and whilst I accept this will burn bridges this post is not made out of spite, but from a hope to build something concrete.
Link: The suggested response given for us to agree or amend, written by the Executive Committee of Unite can be read here.
I raised my concerns at the meeting, when we as the Young Members Committee were asked to approve the Unite response. I had many concerns, but the main points I initially raised were ‘why has this taken so long?’.
The answer was that with Brendan Barber still around when the motion had been carried, little was done to keep the issue on the agenda, and then that Unite had been discussing and waiting for responses from other unions. That while PCS are taking lots of action themselves, there was little consensus for combined action. I was told that this then leaves Unite as “lone wolves”.
I also questioned why there was seemingly no need to set a date yet. Given that we are now nine months on, and that it was clear that one general strike on its own is unlikely to change anything in terms of stopping the cuts.
I pointed out that Greece has had eighteen plus general strikes with no sign of austerity being abandoned.
I said that given the long term plan outlined in our response this is very unlikely to give any hope to those bearing the brunt of the cuts and so the very least we can do if we are even discussing this is to call a date and see who is with us.
The response (from the chair) being that it would be suicidal to set a date now. That we have not yet recovered as a movement from the last general strike
The problem with this response is that when taking into account the proposed actions, these suggestions seem little more than an attempt to harness public opinion and anger.
Both the anger of union membership – which is largely to the left of the leadership itself – and also the of “the communities” whose anger Unite has claimed to understand needs to play a role in any serious fightback regardless of employment status, hence the community branch initiative.
In essence, when you cut through the rhetoric, Unite’s response is saying that a general strike is something to potentially work towards, but that we should not yet set a date. It even states that:
“It is not about setting a date for such a strike now, nor about pitting the demand for a general strike against other initiatives. It is however about recognising that the steps taken to prepare for such mass action in and of themselves; and that undertaking them increases the range of options our movement has in resisting the government’s rush to disaster, whether or not such strike action is ever eventually called”
I don’t think this is about building confidence amongst the rank and file as point 14 suggests by “bringing opinion amongst our members to the point of supporting such action”, over “a build-up period of several months”.
The legal concerns are obviously serious. On the individual level rather than institutional. Unite acknowledge that their membership is low in particular sectors, and that it may not have the power to protect workers against punitive action from employers. This is a material fact of the times though.
Some won’t, but some no doubt will be willing to take a stand now, because frankly union membership is not likely to improve unless unions are seen to be willing to fight.
This brings me to the law in the institutional sense. Britain is bound by the most severely restrictive anti-trade union laws in Europe.
Part 10 of Unite’s suggested response acknowledges the views of John Hendy QC, and Professor Keith Ewing that a general strike may well be legal under European human rights legislation – thus superceding British law, and suggest that we should publicise these opinions.
Again, it is worth remembering that every law in history that has been changed in favour of the working class has been changed by breaking the previous, unjust law.
Anti-union laws are there for a reason – a political one – to restrain the official structures of the working class. This in itself is not the fault of officials. However, by acting in fear of these laws, officials show that they will never challenge them.
The rest of the response goes on into some bizarre fantasy, going into great detail about what Unite would do should they go ahead with this action, despite having already heavily suggested that they are unlikely to.
Even if this were not fantasy, this is wrong when a substantial political levy is paid to a Labour Party who have shown time and time again that they are unwilling to even reverse the laws constraining such action, never mind do anything else in workers’ interest.
The bizarre long winded plan of a “roadmap” is completely patronising; yet another attempt to divert energy into yet another useless symbolic action ending with a “carnival against the cuts”.
People are dying.
7 thoughts on “Our Public Services, Our NHS and Our Social Security System are Perishing: Why Are The Unions Refusing to Name the Date for A General Strike?”
If the unions purpose is to exist without purpose then there is little purpose in looking to them for anything other than navel gazing.. What use is that to anyone ??
The answer is easy, because the the union hierarchy actually support many of the governments policies, including mandatory “WORKFARE”.
……see document below, and note the TUC supports it….
Fair Train Work Experience Project – Helping Young People Into Work
It is well established that well planned work experience – volunteering to do work with the aim of gaining skills to prove/improve employability – significantly increases the chances that individuals will gain employment.
Employers too benefit from work experience with its opportunity to get to know new potential employees before taking the decision to employ.
Unfortunately, work experience has recently received bad publicity with the media portraying it as “unpaid forced labour” and some employers have stopped offering work experience and young people are finding it hard to gain worthwhile work experience.
The term “Work Experience” covers a diverse range of opportunities – there is no nationally accepted standard and usually no recognition or accreditation of the skills gained by those on a placement, or the commitment of the employees and employers who provide work experience.
The Fair Train Work Experience Project will address all of these issues by providing:
Nationally accredited Frameworks for employers and training providers offering work experience including within Traineeships, to ensure it is of a good quality and covers all the characteristics proven to enhance the chances of gaining employment.
A Quality Mark for Work Experience for those who work to the Frameworks
Guidance and recognition for employers/employees offering work experience via a “free to use” web based guide as part of the LINKS project.
Income for employers offering work experience, part funding their time and effort in providing a placement.
Opportunity to recruit new staff via work experience, reducing advertising costs.
Opportunities for young people on work experience to gain credit towards apprenticeships in recognition of the skills they have gained.
The Fair Train Work Experience Project is:
being delivered by Fair Train being funded by the UKCES
o The Department for Education
o the National Apprenticeship Service
o Skills Third Sector
o National Careers Service
o Greater Manchester LEP
o North Warwickshire and Hinckley College
o Places for People
o Third Sector National Learning Alliance
The Sheople of the UK have been Docile Sheepish and Slavish
Too many with their Heads in the Sand there has been
It Amazes Me how Gormless People have been to be
Brainwashed by the Deficit Pahlava and the Austerity Slavery
Unions can be hypocrital, corrupt, ignorant & discriminatory as well. Ive been with amicus now Unite for many years. They failed me due to not understanding disabilities when I was unlawfully dismissed by Doncaster Nissan in 2010 when I was formally diagnosed with aspergers syndrome and dyspraxia. My repeated complaints were covered up. I made 80 yes eighty recorded verbatim telephone calls via deaf system text relay formally typetalk but got fobbed off, moved around, blanked etc etc.
Now this is me in The Star newspaper recently PLEASE understand a LOT has happened to my 76yo Mum and I during the last few years, I look awful and exhausted and Mum and I have been manipulated to extremes ………..
“Exclusive: Red Cross launches emergency food aid plan for UK’s hungry”
“IMF explains “Double Irish Dutch Sandwich” tax avoidance”
Coming to the UK…SOON.
Like most insurance policies not worth the paper it’s written on, the only assurance being they won’t pay out.