This Thursday (10th May) tens of thousands of trade unionists across the civil service, NHS and colleges will be mounting strike action in opposition to the Coalition’s continuing attempts to make public sector workers work longer, pay more for their pensions and get less on retirement. Members of the PCS (the 250,000-strong civil service union), Unite in the NHS and the Ministry of Defence, and the lecturers’ union, the UCU, will be taking part in the action provoked by the Government’s refusal to make significant further concessions since the massive one-day strike across vast swathes of the public sector workforce on 30 November last year.
The largest of the teaching unions, the NUT, which held a successful one-day strike across London on 28 March, will not be taking part in this Thursday’s action, but will be holding a lobby in the late afternoon outside the Department for Education. The NUT Executive will also be meeting that day to consider the possibility of a further strike in June with a number of local associations pushing for a national strike during the current school term.
Unfortunately, in the view of your branch committee, UNISON is not part of the action either in the Health Service or local government. UNISON’s absence is especially regrettable in the NHS, given the fact that UNISON members in health voted last month to reject the pensions offer, which had been described as the “best achievable through negotiation”. Thursday would also have provided an ideal opportunity to link the struggle to defend health workers’ pension rights to opposition to Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, which is a charter for accelerating, widespread privatisation of the NHS.
Meanwhile, we remain in the dark about the detailed content of the agreement reached between the local authority employers and full-time national officials of the three recognised local government unions. This is despite the fact that the documentation went to the Treasury and Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities & Local Government on 12 February. The Camden branch committee is seriously considering an emergency motion to the union’s June conference, which would be highly critical of the handling of the dispute to date and would further seek to bring UNISON back into the ranks of those unions seriously resisting the erosion of our pension schemes.
On Thursday branch members are encouraged to visit local picket lines mounted by sister trade unions at sites such as the British Library, Euston Tower (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, Euston Road and Hampstead Road, NW1) and Westminster Kingsway College (Grays Inn Road and Sidmouth Street, WC1). In addition, there will be a march of healthworkers and supporters from St Thomas’ Hospital on the south bank of the Thames from 12 noon to join a rally at Central Hall Westminster.