Massive vote for strikes in Unison – now get set for 30 November

by Tom Walker http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=26606

Unison union members delivered an overwhelming vote for strikes today, Thursday.

A huge majority, 78 percent, voted yes. In the NHS the yes vote was even higher—a massive 82 percent.

The historic vote follows the biggest ballot in Britain’s trade union history. It means the union’s 1.1 million members can be part of the three-million strong walkout planned for 30 November.

“This is a brilliant result,” said Unison national executive member and Barnet council worker Helen Davies. “Now we need to make sure the day of action goes as well as the ballot.”

Unions that struck on 30 June—NUT, ATL, UCU and PCS—are set to strike on that day, along with unions that are still balloting. These include the GMB, Unite and NASUWT.

Whole councils will be shut for the day. Hospitals will only run minimum emergency cover. Schools won’t open as teachers, teaching assistants, caterers and cleaners all walk out together.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said, “The decisive yes vote in the ballot reflects the deep concern that our members have over government ministers’ proposals for their pensions.”

The breakdown of the ballot shows that beneath the headline figure are many even better votes. In the NHS in Scotland, for example, workers voted 88 percent for strikes.

But the right wing media and government ministers are already going into overdrive to spread smears about the result. They say the 29 percent overall turnout means there is “no mandate” for strikes.

The truth is that they hate the fact that workers have clearly voted to resist the government.

Thatcher’s anti-union laws, which made postal ballots compulsory, were designed to make such a vote almost impossible to achieve.

Yet union members have still delivered.

It’s hypocritical rubbish for the government to bleat on about mandates. Just 21 percent of eligible voters cast their vote for the Tories in the election last year. They have no mandate for their war on workers.

“The ballot shows Unison members are prepared to fight to defend their pensions,” said Kirklees Unison branch chair Nick Ruff.

“They can talk about the turnout but the strike will be supported massively on the day. Every time there’s a ballot we hear it’s not enough—but the members come out.

“The government is already under pressure. On 30 November we can wipe the floor with them.”

The other attack being used against the union is Treasury minister Danny Alexander’s claim that the government’s new offer on pensions yesterday was “generous”.

He even called it “the chance of a lifetime”. This is rubbish.

There are three prongs to the government’s attack: “pay more, work longer, get less”. The offer only changes the last of these—and only slightly.

Contributions would still rise by up to 50 percent. Workers would still not be able to retire until as late as 68. And the vast majority would still get less at the end of it.

As PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka put it, “Ministers are saying they will only raid pensions by slightly less than they were planning to.”

Unison’s leaders are set to meet to decide the union’s next steps. There is no reason to hesitate for a moment over striking on 30 November.

A strike of three million workers has the power not just to force the government to retreat but to change the whole political climate in Britain. It is 30 November that is the real “chance of a lifetime”.

Now it is down to every union member to throw themselves into building the biggest strike they can—organising mass pickets, rallies and the widest possible solidarity.

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