15 March will be the biggest day of action so far in the current strike wave. rs21 member and Lancashire NEU branch officer Andy Cunningham urges everyone to join the London protests on that day.
Strikers demonstrating on 1 February – photo by Steve Eason.
On Wednesday 15 March Jeremy Hunt will deliver the latest Tory budget in the House of Commons. At the same time, tens of thousands of strikers will be marching through the streets of London in the latest escalation of this strike wave, with more workers due to take action than on 1 February. Up to 500,000 are set to strike on March 15: NEU teachers (and support staff in Wales), PCS and Prospect civil servants, UCU higher education staff, junior doctors in the BMA and HCSA (Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association), NUJ members in BBC Local in England, plus ASLEF and RMT members on London Underground, and GMB members at Amazon Coventry.
15 March is important for two key reasons.
Firstly, the demonstrations bring together a lot of those workers currently striking. The logic of united and co-ordinated action is not necessarily accepted by the various union bureaucracies currently in dispute, as recent events in the NHS with the RCN and with the Ambulance Services have shown. But on the ground, in workplaces and on picket lines, the support for united action is overwhelming. This demonstration is a chance to bring as many of those striking workers together as possible, giving them a clear sense of their own power and unity.
Secondly, we need to be clear who the current strikes are against. For many of those in dispute it is not the employer but the government that is the key decision maker. The result of the anti-trade union laws in Britain mean that disputes are often framed around wages but most of the strikes are about much more than that. Yes, the cost of living crisis is helping to drive the strikes forward, but increases in public sector wages have to be funded with more money from the government. If they are not, we simply add to the continuing pressure of fewer people doing more with less money – a situation that is driving the crisis in schools, the NHS and lots of our other basic services.
It shouldn’t need stating that the disputes at the moment are about workers winning a greater share of the social wage – both through being directly employed in the public sector but also through the provision of high quality services. This Tory government has, over the last 13 years, consistently tried to destroy our public services and usher in a wild-west system of profit extraction. It is these mega-profits, often received by the Tories’ corrupt friends, that is driving inflation. The current strike wave shows that patience and accommodation to this trend of Tory-induced decline is coming to an end. 15 March will be an important moment in demonstrating the strength and resolve of that movement.
NEU members demonstrating 1 February. Photo by Steve Eason.
The London demonstration will also help to overcome some of the unevenness in the current strike wave, where well organised workplaces lie just down the road from workplaces with very little sense of activity. Every single person who attends the London demonstration will go back to their localities inspired by the protest and ready to organise at work.
While the current strike wave is showing no signs of slowing, it is true that it has not been felt evenly or universally – a reflection of years of trade union decline since the 1980s. One of our key tasks as revolutionary socialists at the moment is to encourage the development of new organisers in our class in order to remedy this situation. Bringing new and old activists together on demonstrations like the 15 March is crucial to this.
So what should you be doing in your workplace, town or district? Organise as large a delegation as possible to travel with you to London on 15th March: contact your local NEU District, the UCU lecturers at your local university, students’ unions and your local BMA and PCS contacts, the trades council, the local Labour Party and community campaign groups. Let’s show the Tories that we’re not going anywhere until we’ve won better pay and better public services for everyone.
NEU: Assemble Hyde Park at noon to march to Trafalgar Square.
PCS: Assemble Embankment Tube at noon to march to Trafalgar Square, with a rally at Downing Street at 1pm.