For once union leaders refused to be blackmailed. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said negotiations over pay had to be conditional on the teachers’ strikes being called off. The leaders said no. And this week, teachers up and down the country - and in Scotland - are taking strike action.
Also back on, are the railway workers’ strikes, which first began last summer. And civil servants are still striking. In fact, not one section of workers has been offered a decent pay increase. Not even nurses organised in the RCN union, which called off the 48-hour escalation it had planned last week, in order to try to negotiate a deal.
As for commentators making comparisons with private sector pay, which they say is 5% or more above the offers made to public sector workers (but postal workers and most railway workers are private employees!) this is a nonsense. Car workers, for instance, may have got above inflation (14%, even) pay rises in the last few months, but the bosses have taken the money back by cutting their shifts.
For the government, it’s a political decision not a financial one, to refuse to pay the striking public sector workers. Hunt could easily find the cash. Instead the choice is to present a tax-cutting budget (coming next week). And of course, a Tory government full of Thatcher-worshippers, wants to be seen defeating the working class. All the more reason to beat it soundly!
In the meantime prices keep rising: with the energy price guarantee increasing from £2,500/yr to £3,000/yr from April, bills could go up by £500+. The expert Martin Lewis is banking on Sunak stepping in beforehand, to prevent this. Yet energy bills are already too high, while food prices were up by a record 17% this week!
So yes, the working class has to kick back against the unbearable cost of living and demand pay rises in line with price rises, across the board, in the public sector and in the private sector.
And it’s not enough that union leaders don’t allow ministers to blackmail them into calling off strikes. The real problem over the past many months has been that strikes have remained passive, sectional and unco-ordinated - and above all, that the strikers themselves are not taking all the decisions which affect them. If workers are to win the pay rises and the reversal of cuts in jobs and conditions which threaten them, that is something that will have to change.