Delegates gathered for the PCS civil service workers’ union conference in Brighton this week with major issues to debate.
The union is battling on over pay after months of targeted action and occasional national strikes. Members recently voted by 88 percent to renew their strike mandate on a 52 percent turnout.
But workers in some departments and agencies just failed to meet the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by the Tory anti-union laws. Over 42,000 workers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) missed the anti-union threshold by 1.3 percent.
PCS members are furious that the Tories offered them a pay increase of just 4.5 percent for this year. They imposed 2 percent last year—both real-terms pay cuts.
Workers have solidly supported the sectional strikes. But they have not broken the government, which has made even more insulting offers to the PCS than it has to some others.
So it is now time to move on to a discussion about escalation of the national strikes.
This would be a break from the strategy so far of restricting strikes mainly to those that can be fully‑funded by the union so strikers don’t face real hardship. But it is the critical move.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has announced he is to retire in January. Nominations for his successor open on 2 September.
Thousands take to streets for independence in Wales
Around 6,000 people joined a march for Welsh independence last Saturday in Swansea. It filled The Kingsway, the main street through the centre of the city.
Around 10,000 marched in Cardiff and 8,000 in Wrexham last year for independence.
The event was organised by YesCymru and All Under One Banner Cymru. It attracted nationalists but also some of those who are desperate to see an end to Tory rule.
People eagerly took placards calling for support for strikers, defiance of the Tories and support for trans rights.
Recent polling suggests that backing for independence is on the rise with one recent poll recording support for it at 36 percent. Support for Independence was as low as 5 percent less than a decade ago.
In April Rishi Sunak said no more powers should be devolved to Wales.
Socialists should not defend the British state and if Welsh people want to vote to break it up, they should have the right to make the decision.
But the strongest challenge to Tory rule in Wales and the rest of Britain comes from the strikes and mass protests, not the “all classes together” independence movement.
Wales is sharply divided by class. The Sunday Times rich list showed the five richest people in Wales are all billionaires. They are headed by venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman with a combined wealth of over £3.3 billion.
Support workers’ strikes in Leicester take on academy
School strikers in Leicester showed their determination to keep fighting over pay last week.
Support workers at the Ash Field Academy were due to stage a three-day strike from Tuesday this week, following two days of walkouts last week.
The Unison union members are fighting a below-inflation pay offer and council threats to close the residential department of the special‑needs school.
Tom Barker, Unison rep at the school said, “We were offered a real terms pay cut, as are a lot of support workers.
There were massive picket lines on strike days, as well as a flurry of support from local trade unionists and parents of Ash Field students.
These attacks can be stopped—and trade unionists should heap solidarity on the low paid strikers.
Messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
New wave of action sweeps the North Sea
Hundreds of workers have joined the pay battles in the North Sea that will impact dozens of installations. Members of the Unite union rejected a new pay offer at Bilfinger UK Limited.
It puts forward a basic pay increase of 6 percent, a major real terms cut. Around 600 workers rejected it.
These workers at Bilfinger did not participate in the previous round of 48-hour strikes which involved 1,200 offshore workers between 10 and 12 May.
That previous strike involved around 200 Bilfinger contractors working on BP and Repsol assets.
The industrial action will affect a number of oil and gas operators including BP, CNRI, Ithaca, BP Repsol and TAQA. It will involve some 800 workers and is scheduled for Thursday to Saturday next week and then 8 to 10 June.
Crucial ballot over pay in Unison
Hundreds of thousands of local government workers and school workers in the Unison union have started a crucial ballot over pay.
The voting opened in England and Wales on Tuesday and is set to run until 28 June. The union is calling for a pay increase of inflation plus 2 percent. The government has offered a pathetic flat rate increase of £1,925 a year.
Workers who work part‑time would receive even less.
The ballot is disaggregated, which means each employer is balloted separately. It means some local strikes could take place, even if workers don’t meet the 50 percent threshold needed nationally.
It’s welcome the union is recommending to reject the deal. Now it needs a serious campaign and then a proper fight.
More than 900 workers could bring key parts of central London to a standstill this Thursday, as they strike in a row about pay.
Workers at the City of London Corporation were set to walk out for 24 hours after voting 77 percent for strikes.
As a result, they could shut down Tower Bridge, the Old Bailey, Barbican, museums, gardens, parks and markets.
Bosses are threatening that paying workers more would result in cuts to services, and redundancies.
Yet the City of London is home to the capital’s financial sector. It is laughable to suggest there isn’t enough cash to pay council workers properly, while bankers and traders.