After the trade union marches and strikes against the Coalition’s pension cuts the unions went straight back into the serious business of working with government officials in order to implement the latest austerity measures. So individually, behind the scenes, relying on their usual tactics of division and secret talks, the unions are again working with the government against the interests of the working class.
Unions predict that maybe two or three million workers will be on strike on 30 November, from education, health, local government, the civil service, and more. The main issue of the strike – the future of public sector pensions – is a very real one because we are all being asked to work longer and pay more for less to retire on.
In a few days at the end of June a range of High Street names showed what effect the continuing crisis is having. Thorntons is closing 120 and maybe up to 180 shops. Carpetright is closing 94 stores. Jane Norman is shutting 33 shops. TJHughes is looking at going into administration. Habitat is going into administration and closing most of its shops. Clinton Cards is to be restructured. Lloyds TSB is cutting another 15,000 jobs, making more than 40,000 since 2009. Inflation is running at 4.5% (5.2% on the higher RPI measure), there’s a public sector pay freeze, the state pension age is rising. Council workers in Southampton, Shropshire and Neath Port Talbot have faced the ‘choice’ of pay cuts or job losses.
Injunctions have been used to prevent or delay strike action by BA cabin crew - twice, and against rail signal workers in April, making use of strict criteria for balloting union members and informing them and the employers about the result.
In the lead-up to the General Election all serious factions of the bourgeoisie have openly put forward the need to introduce the most savage cuts, most of them aimed at the public sector. As opposed to the 1997 election slogan of New Labour - "things can only get better" - things got bad and are getting worse. Already we are faced with an all-out attack on pay and conditions. Many different sectors of workers have faced stringent attacks, provoking different struggles to defend jobs and wages, the postal workers and oil refinery workers being among the most notable examples.
Following the suspension of strike action by the Communication Workers Union, many will cry ‘sell-out' and ‘betrayal' by the union bureaucrats. This article argues that both the methods it used while the struggle was on, and the decision to call a halt to the action, were examples of the union doing its job: sabotaging the class struggle from the inside.