The strikes go on. Even if, at the time of writing, the bigger battalions like railway and postal workers remain in suspended animation, awaiting decisions from union leaders over relaunching their action.
In an unprecedented move, the civil service union has called out 1,000 passport office workers for a 5-week, continuous strike. And security workers at Heathrow's Terminal 5 started 10 days of continuous action last Friday. Next week, from 11-14 April, junior doctors will strike for 4 days in a row.
Union leaders call this "targeted action". But while it's more serious in its effect, it's well-defined in its extent, so the bosses have the leeway to plan for it. As for the workers involved, it leaves them even more isolated from each other.
And this aspect is bad for the working class as a whole - because surely the big picture for workers is to change lives and livelihoods for the better, across the board? And for that to happen, the strikes cannot be targeted at just one part of the system (or even a few parts), but have to be aimed at the entire system.
The leader of the railway workers’ union, the RMT, who famously announced that the ”working class is back", is ironically, more guilty than most, of this self-defeating isolationism.
The union is now reviving its campaign for train cleaners and tankers to get a pay rise and improved conditions, which it had previously allowed to lapse. It should be added that its demand for £15/hour is all very well, but it hasn't even called out all cleaners, let alone other rail workers who are paid even less, in many cases! And in the cleaners’ case, other even more pressing issues, like job cuts, are being put to one side.
Never mind inflation is up or down
Undoubtedly, substantial pay rises have to be central to the demands placed in front of the bosses by striking workers, today. Because it's nonsense to argue - as the bosses and their loyal media spokespersons do - that inflation is coming down, so a 5% offer is “good” because it's going to beat inflation by April or May!
These pundits have no way of predicting the sudden big and small shocks - or fits of bosses’ greed - which send prices soaring again... Like for instance OPEC's decision this week to cut oil supply, precisely to push up the price and so get higher profits!
Anyway, the bosses’ preferred inflation measure remained 10.4% in February (higher than predicted!), while the measure closer to real price increases, that is, RPI was still as high as 13.8%!
And even if inflation does fall, workers’ living standards have already dropped to their lowest in 40 years - so there is a lot of catching up to do.
Junior doctors said that their pay fell by 26% since 2008. Nurses said they'd need a 35% rise to make up their losses - although their leaders have, incomprehensibly, recommended acceptance of the government's offer of a 4% rise for 2022-3 and 5% for 2023-4.
Teachers, on the other hand, are due to go on strike again on Thursday 27 April and Tuesday 2 May, having voted by 98% (66% turnout) to reject their offer of a £1,000 one-off payment this year, and a 4.3% rise next year. Of course part of the funding for this, is meant to come from school budgets, even if the Education Secretary is promising more money from the Treasury.
In fact, this government seems to be made of nothing but promises! It pledges billions, but staff on the ground see zero and zilch. The most glaring case being Johnson's promise to “mend social care". This week Hunt slashed a social care training fund by half! But then he also cancelled the increase in National Insurance which was meant to fund the NHS and social care, in true homage to Nigel Lawson - the just dead, tax-cutting, privatising, Thatcherite Chancellor they're all shedding a tear over today.
The only way: generalise the strikes!
There is no choice. The fight against the ongoing attacks against the working class - which take the form of every kind of cut, not just the squeeze on wages - must continue.
However, at the moment, this fight is not being conducted as if workers all belong to the same class. It's one section at a time, only partially co-ordinated and there has been no attempt to use the very substantial collective strength that all strikers out together would represent, to win general demands. Even the mention of a “general strike" sends some union leaders into a fit of defensive denial!
Of course, union leaders are not political leaders, elected to fight an offensive class war! But without working class political organisation and leadership (led by today's strikers!), this weak and witless government and the cowardly bosses behind it, will carry on getting away with murder...
It's certainly not too late to seize the initiative to build the collective, all out, ground—level fight needed to stop them. But better not wait too long!