More than 1.2 million workers took to the streets across France last Thursday, protesting against the proposed reform of state pensions, including increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64. Schools were closed and transport stopped as workers walked out to join protests. Another "general" strike – called by the 8 biggest French unions – is planned for 31 January.
In fact that’s just one day before “our” TUC is calling its "National Day of Action", to "protect the right to strike", against the government's Minimum Service Levels Bill which aims to prevent all-out strikes in “vital” public services.
In the meantime, the list of new strikes continues to grow. This week, Amazon workers in Coventry will take their first "official" strike action! And more strike days have been announced by paramedics and nurses, while 45,000 junior doctors in the BMA are in the middle of their first strike ballot since 2016 (others have already voted for strike). Royal Mail workers are re-balloting to continue their strike and railway workers have already done so!
In fact 1 February will see the single largest strike since this strike-wave began 6 months ago. Teachers, civil servants, university workers, train drivers (and maybe firefighters) will be out – all in all, that makes over half a million workers on strike!
So this is a step forward. Even though many workers know that it's a real generalised strike which is needed to break the current stalemate. In other words, maximum force - meaning all workers out on strike and staying out, for as long as it takes - to win in minimal (further!) time.
The fact that the rail and postal union leaders have been afraid to call “all-out” strikes over the past 6 months means they played straight into the governments’ and bosses’ hands. Whether they like it or not, they’ve colluded with the other side, which has deliberately used delaying tactics, while sticking to their own guns - figuring that workers will start trickling back to work, while they impose their cuts.
And the irony is, that the Bill going through parliament aims to stop 100% strikes when none has been 100% anyway! Indeed, NHS workers provided minimum service levels themselves, even if this minimum hardly exists normally, due to the NHS crisis.
As for the TUC, its timid “national day of action” isn’t even national. Like the strike leaders, it isn’t joining up the protests of workers around the country. There are meant to be separate protests in every city... So yet again it falls to workers’ own initiative to “join up”! And what’s more to go all out, in order to create the large force needed to overcome the bosses’ and government’s refusal to pay up! And why stop there? It’s not just pay rises that the working class needs, but social transformation from top to bottom, under workers’ (and not union bureaucrats’) control!