Striking together using our full force is the one effective weapon we’ve got

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
24 August 2022

The working class is definitely back!  At long last, many sections of workers are using their totally indispensable weight in society to fight back.

    The 8-day (maybe indefinite!) strike of the Felixstowe dockers, who shut down Britain’s largest container port on Sunday, is in fact the dockers’ first “proper” strike in 30 years!  And maybe the first proper strike of any section of workers since the 1980s!

    Indeed.  They are taking a “long” spell of action because they know very well that they are more likely to win if they go “all out” until the bosses back down.

    And although up to now, the many different sections of workers on strike - which will include postal workers from this Friday - are taking action separately, and mostly on different days, this is a first step towards what even the union leaders now feel obliged to mention: a collective “general” strike by workers, taking “synchronised” industrial action, all together.

    Of course whether that happens or not remains to be seen.  But it’s certainly the case that the union leaders are under pressure - almost all the strike ballots across all sections of workers, even normally conservative (with a small “c”) train drivers, have been over 90% in favour of action!

    Yes, because decent pay increases are now absolutely vital.  Predictions of ever-higher energy costs keep coming!  Ofgem - the so-called energy regulator - has the green light from government to increase the price cap charged for electricity and gas - so from October, a household with average usage will be billed up to £3,500, an increase of 75% on current levels!  This, when the obvious government policy in the face of this energy company greed and profiteering, would be to cap their prices and commandeer their profits!

Striking for what we need and nothing less!

As for what sort of rises in pay which workers should be demanding, well it should certainly be above 18.6%!  This is the inflation level which can apparently be expected by January next year - a prediction reported by Citigroup this Monday!

    In this context, it’s absolutely incredible that the bosses - and this goes right across their arrogant and avaricious board - even dare to come up with pay offers of 2%, 3%, 4%!  But even the 7% or 11% - with added £500 “sweeteners” in some cases - is an insulting joke given the 3-year long pay freezes, and the fire and rehire imposition of totally new contracts which are now becoming commonplace!

    What is more, it’s hard to believe that in the face of the worst cost of living crisis in 70 years, with inflation the highest since the 1970s, that the government should be absent and on leave!  In fact it’s been fiddling, like the Emperor Nero, playing at electing a “leader” (like Truss?!) while the country has literally been burning!

    These degenerate representatives of a ruling class which belongs in the dustbin of history, have been throwing the population into one crisis after another since long before Covid. And now they are coming up with their “answer” to the strikes!  Yes, they are bringing in agency workers to take workers’ places, among other new anti-union legislation.

    But this is already proving a little difficult.  They have tried it on the railways.  And since safety critical jobs on trains require at least 6 months training, it just doesn’t work.  Neither can they replace postal workers at the drop of a hat - nor Telecom engineers.  And in fact the dire shortage of workers, especially drivers, means they can’t replace refuse workers either...  the rubbish is thus piling up all over Scotland and adorning the Edinburgh festival!

All out until our demands are met!

All that said, however, isn’t it high time our strike weapon was used more effectively?  That is, workers - across all sections - withdrawing their labour until all their demands are met in full?  Maybe this will be the case with the dockers.  They’ve said they’re prepared for an indefinite strike.  But junior barristers have already committed to this.  In the face of the drastic and successive cuts in legal aid, they’re determined to get a 25% pay rise!

    Yes, and it’s obvious: a strike inevitably loses momentum (and often its support!), if it drags on, one day-at-a-time offering piecemeal - but also uncoordinated, isolated, sectional - action...  And this is precisely what’s been happening over the past many years, when union leaderships used strikes as a bargaining chip, rather than using them as the invincible weapon they could be!

    This has meant that the “fight” is mostly carried on behind closed doors around a negotiating table, which, by definition, excludes the workers involved.  And it drags on and on, until it ends in a weary compromise, with a lot more given up and a lot less gained, than workers were promised.

    Union members are told that this “tactic” means that they lose less from their wage packets than they would have, if they’d stayed out on strike for however long it takes to get the bosses to back down.  Maybe so, maybe not...

    But why should there be any loss of wages at all?  Is this some kind of inevitable punishment that workers must accept to suffer, for “the sin” of striking?!  A “sacrifice”?

    No! There is every reason for strikers to include, in their wage demands, the repayment of all lost wages! This should be one of the cast-iron conditions for returning to work. It hasn’t been done before? Well then, it is high time for it to become a part and parcel of our normal demands! Yes, and part and parcel of our working class “come-back”!