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Trade Union

Trade Union

  • A defence of the free movement of labour

    migrants demo

    Low wages are not caused by immigration, but by a profoundly anti-working class economic approach, writes Richard Allday

  • What's going on with the Teaching Assistants' strike action?

    Durham Teaching Assistants protest. Photo: @TAs_Durham

    The Durham Teaching Assistants' dispute has been going on for some time now, Tony Dowling speaks to Megan Charlton to find out what it's all about

  • Why are London Underground staff striking?

    Farringdon Tube Station. Photo: Wikipedia

    We asked Kieran Crowe, a TSSA representative, for his view on what the strikes are about

  • Pride, solidarity, anger and hope: 2016 for Durham Teaching Assistants

    Durham Teaching Assistants protest. Photo: @TAs_Durham

    Durham Teaching Assistants' year of resistance is summed up by Megan Charlton

  • What happened to the Christmas of discontent?

    Unite The Union, Transport House, Belfast. Photo: Flickr/William Murphy

    Despite the media's pre-Christmas strike hysteria the strikes didn't take place - Richard Allday examines why

  • What is really going on with the Southern Rail strikes?

    President of ASLEF Tosh McDonald. Photo: Mick Wattam / Youtube

    Doncaster Counterfire speaks to ASLEF President Tosh McDonald about the industrial action on Southern Rail

  • Imperial War Museum: three years of privatised crisis

    imperial war museum

    The privatisation of visitor services and security staff at the Imperial War Museum has been an utter failure

  • Southern Rail: striking for safety

    Rail replacement bus for Southern Rail services. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    Southern Rail train drivers and guards continue their strike action, Jonathan Maunders reports from the picket lines

  • Southern Rail: playing politics for profit

    Southern train at Falmer Station. Photo: Geograph

    As half a million would-be passengers endure another day of frustration, they are being encouraged to blame fellow workers for their misery, instead of the real culprits

  • A vote for McCluskey is a vote for hope

    Len McCluskey speaks at a Bursary or Bust protest. Photo: WIkipedia

    Unite's general secretary has resigned to trigger an election, but hopes to continue as head of UK's biggest union

  • Striking to defend the education of their communities

    Durham Teaching Assistants preparing to picket, County Durham, November 2016

    The Durham Teaching Assistants ratcheted up their campaign with two days of strike action last week. Megan Charlton was there to report

  • Remembering Gerry Jones

    Gerry Jones.

    A tribute remembering Gerry Jones: trade unionist, organiser and socialist, who constantly fought for fairness, writes Penny Hicks

  • Uber drivers win employment case

    The Uber app. Photo: Pexels

    Uber drivers win the right to be classed as workers as opposed to self-employed, in a huge step forward for the labour movement, reports Lindsey German

  • Defend the Kinsley School cleaners

    The 'Kinsley Three' - Lesley Leake, Marice Hall and Karen McGee. Photo: John Westmoreland

    The small disputes, which appear separate, are coming together to form a movement, argues says John Westmoreland

  • Taking back control: the movement hits the streets of Birmingham

    Tories Out, Austerity Failed Demonstration, Birmingham. Photo: Wheelz Wheeler

    We took back Birmingham from the Tories and were resolute in our opposition to austerity, demanding a new deal for working people, reports Cameron Panting

  • Durham Teaching Assistants: enough is enough

    Teaching Assistants in Durham protesting against pay cuts. Photo: @TAs_Durham

    Teaching Assistants in Durham won't accept a pay cut imposed by the council, writes Lizzy Anderson

  • Railways: a rebellious mood

    bring back british rail

    Counterfire talks to Alex Gordon from the RMT about the recent wave of industrial disputes in the railway industry

  • Trident: it's about power not peace

    A Trident II missile fires its first stage after an underwater launch from a ballistic missile submarine. Photo: Wikipedia

    MPs voted through a military programme that has no rationale, argues Alex Bennett. The campaign to against renewal must go on

  • Durham Miners Gala: an inspiring day

    Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Miners' Gala in 2015. Photo: durhamminers.org

    As the coup from the Labour right is launched, the Labour movement vehemently backs Jeremy Corbyn, writes Chris Nineham

  • Labour crisis: everything to play for

    corbyn protest

    A victory for Jeremy Corbyn in the coming leadership election is crucial for the future of the British left, writes Lindsey German

  • Should we stay or should we go?

    The flag of the European Union. Photo: MPD01605 / Flickr

    Alex Gordon, convenor of Lexit – The Left Leave Campaign and former president of the RMT trade union, talks to Counterfire about the upcoming EU referendum

  • Unions: the EU offers us nothing

    Many trade unionists will be voting to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum. An ASLEF, BFAWU and RMT statement explains why

  • The Letters of Joe Hill

    joe hill

    The collected writing of a folk balladeer, Wobbly and activist inspires workers and scares the right in equal measure today, finds Adam Tomes

  • SOAS cleaners' campaign: 'It's a matter of justice'

    SOAS cleaners, staff and students gather to pressure management. Photo: Feyzi Ismail

    SOAS ramps up its campaign to bring the cleaning staff in-house, in a struggle that has received national attention

  • Brazil: Ford workers promise to resist the coup

    Ford factory workers in Brazil

    Workers at the Ford factory in São Paulo Brazil have pledged to resist the coup and to fight in defence of labour rights

  • Huge support on the streets for junior doctors

    March for the junior doctors against contract imposition. Source: Garry Knight

    As the junior doctors strike again, student nurse Danielle Tiplady reports from the streets

  • This is serious: what you can do now to support the junior doctors

    junior doctors protest

    The junior doctors dispute is the most important industrial confrontation in years. Chris Nineham explains why they need all our support in the coming strike

  • Now is the time to Stop Trident

    Image: CND

    The Tories' plans to renew the Trident missile system are causing a revival of the anti-nuclear movement, writes Kate Hudson

  • Junior doctors strike again: Health Secretary torpedos last minute deal

    Junior doctors at a picket line in Sunderland. Photo: Mark Tyers

    As junior doctors strike across the country, Mark Tyers reports from Sunderland

  • Junior doctors: they thought we would be easy targets - podcast

    Junior doctor Mona Kamal argues that the government is attacking doctors as a means to further undermine the NHS

  • Sandy Nicoll reinstated at SOAS: the strength of solidarity

    Standing together in solidarity at SOAS has overturned management’s suspension of Sandy Nicoll

  • Trade Union Bill: big turnout for protest

    trade union bill protest

    Trade unionists lobbied parliament today to protest against the Tories' attack on workers, writes Mark Smith

  • Trade Union Bill: unfit for democracy

    TUC demo

    The Tories seek to introduce some of the most draconian and authoritarian labour laws of recent times, writes Kieran Crowe

  • Students and staff shut down SOAS

    Students bar entry into the main building at SOAS. Photo: James Eastwood

    The shutdown at SOAS today over the suspension of Sandy Nicoll is a sign of the battles ahead. But it could also be the beginning of a movement against cuts in higher education more generally

  • Anti-union bill is an attack on us all

    Trade union march

    The Tories are planning the biggest assault on rights at work since the 1980s. Peter Stauber spoke to Richard Allday of Unite the Union’s National Executive Committee about the new legislation

  • Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934

    Book Cover

    Brian Palmer’s Revolutionary Teamsters shows the contemporary relevance of a major episode of revolutionary trade-unionism from the 1930s, argues Richard Allday

  • Suffragette: on the side of the rebels

    Suffragette is a compelling and moving portrayal of the courage of ordinary women who dared to challenge the power of the British state

  • Demonstrate at Tory Conference – and build a new left

    Anti-cuts demonstration

    To defend labour rights and stop further brutal austerity the TUC national demonstration on 4 October is crucial, writes Bristol Counterfire’s Tom Vaughan

  • New anti-union laws: Tory class hatred and hypocrisy

     Sajid Javid

    The latest anti-union proposals from Cameron’s cabinet show the naked class hatred of democracy that lies at the heart of the Tory party writes Richard Allday

  • South Africa after Marikana: an interview with Trevor Ngwane

    Democratic Left Front supporters on a Black Lives Matter protest organised by the United Front on 18 March 2015

    South African socialist and anti-apartheid activist Trevor Ngwane is interviewed by Susan Newman

  • Celebrating the Miners Strike through film: 'Miners’ Hymns' and 'DS30'

    Test Dept DS30

    Mike Quille reviews two new films: Miners’ Hymns which is out on DVD, and a new film called DS30, which will be shown in Durham a few days before the Miners Gala

  • Unions Together Labour leadership Hustings

    Labour contenders

    Jeff Hodge reports from the Unions Together Labour leadership hustings

  • Breaking up is hard to do

    Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn

    Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he will stand for Labour leader has bolstered the anti-austerity movement. But will the trade unions back him, too?

  • Live blog: End Austerity Now protest

    Rolling coverage from the build up and the day - submit your reports, images and videos using the hashtag #EndAusterityNow on Facebook and Twitter

  • Unite, Labour and the election

    Len McCluskey

    Labour's defeat has been followed by Blairite attacks on the union link and on Unite and Len McLuskey in particular. Richard Allday looks at how socialists should respond

  • RMT confirms strike dates and overtime ban on Network Rail

    The largest rail union, RMT, today confirmed that members will be taking strike action and action short of a strike from Monday 25th May in the current dispute over pay and jobs at Network Rail. The impact of the action will build up over the Monday the 25th and will be in full effect by the start of the Tuesday, the 26th May.

  • Bully for Cameron – or why the Tories are natural bullies!

    A government that got the votes of just 25% of the elctorate wants workers to jump through yet more hoops before being able to take lawful industrial action writes Richard Allday

  • Gateshead teachers strike on May Day to save jobs at Thorp Academy

    NUT members at Thorp Academy in Gateshead took strike action on Friday in defence of colleagues threatened by compulsory redundancy - Tony Dowling reports

  • 'Let's stop Brazil' - workers to stage general strike in defence of their rights

    Demonstrations in Brazil

    Brazilian workers are striking in response to 'the generalization of job insecurity' reports Orlando Hill

  • Working together, winning together

    Kristine Mayle of CTU addressing conference

    Tony Dowling reports from this week's NUT conference

  • Gateshead march and rally against cuts

    Protesters took to the streets of Gateshead to oppose plans for another £46m worth of cuts over the next two years. Report by Tony Dowling

  • Fire cuts kill: Sunderland people march to defend their fire station

    Protesters from Sunderland trade unions, the People's Assembly and supportive members of the public turned out in their hundreds to protest closure

  • Silvertown: The Lost Story Of A Strike That Shook London And Helped Launch The Modern Labour Movement

    Silvertown bookcover

    John Tully’s history of the Silvertown strike reveals industrial and imperial connections, and the nature of the worker’s struggle against them at a crucial period, argues John Westmoreland

  • Defending Charlotte Munro - and the NHS

    Campaigners back Charlotte Munro - a trade unionist sacked for highlighting cuts to hospital services at Whipps Cross hospital in comments to the Waltham Forest health scrutiny committee

  • Welcome to dodgy Dave’s second-hand democracy sale!

    London bus workers strike outside Waterloo Bus Garage in London. Photo: PA

    Richard Allday responds to the latest Tory attacks on democracy, from curtailing trade union rights to eroding the powers of local authorities

  • John Lewis cleaners and the fight for the living wage

    The cleaners at John Lewis are the latest in a surge of grassroots worker-run initiatives fighting for the London Living wage reports Matt Bonner

  • Free arrested Hong Kong union leaders!

    Send a message to the Hong Kong authorities denouncing this attack on democratic expression and demanding that the union leaders and all the arrested be immediately released and all charges unconditionally dropped

  • 'Management out, cleaners in!' - campaigners step up pressure at SOAS

    SOAS Spirit

    Bringing cleaners in-house at SOAS university, London, is back on the table after protesters crashed a management meeting, reports SOAS student Clare Birkett

  • Korea at a turning point: beautiful solidarity or ugly defeat?

    Ssangyong workers marching

    The South Korean government has launched a new political offensive to overturn hard won job securities, Clive Tilman looks at what's at stake

  • SOAS staff and students demand Justice for Cleaners

    SOAS Justice for Cleaners (J4C) re-launched their campaign this year with a series of successful events over the past week - demanding the cleaning staff are brought in-house

  • Challenging the pay and working conditions of hourly-paid and fractional staff

    Fair Play For Fractionals banner at SOAS. Photo: Tom King

    Staff at Queen Mary’s have launched an anticasualisation campaign demanding pay for all hours worked at London Living Wage and contract uniformity. Isabelle Leach reports

  • NHS workers strike against the pay freeze

    Midwives on the picket line in Sunderland

    A report from the picket lines in Sunderland as NHS workers strike against a four-year long public sector pay freeze

  • Carrington power station site shut down by anti-blacklisting picket.

    Steve Leadbeater reports from Carrington power station which has been shut down in an action by Unite rank and file activists

  • St Mungo’s workers strike against pay cuts and 'tick box' care

    St Mungo

    Reuben Bard-Rosenberg reports from Haringey on the final day of a week long strike by workers at a homless charity against huge pay cuts

  • Liveblog: #18oct protest - Britain Needs a Pay Rise

    No cuts placards

    Video, tweets and images from the TUC demonstration against austerity

  • Video: London welcomes the People's March for the NHS

    Video of the welcome march and the speeches that greeted the '300 milers' who had walked from Jarrow to London in protest at the privatisation of the NHS

  • National TUC anti-austerity demonstration | 18 October 2014

    Photograph by Marienna Pope-Weidemann

    The People's Assembly Against Austerity will be mobilising to support the TUC protest against on 18 October

  • Interview with People's March for the NHS organiser Rehana Azam

    Rehana Azam

    Mark Tyers speaks to Rehana Azam, co-founder and organiser of the People's March for the NHS at the march stopping point outside The Church Mouse pub on Chester Moor

  • Firefighters issue further eight days of strike action

    Firefighters have today issued a further eight day period of strike action as the Westminster government have not improved their pension proposals.

  • The Fire Brigades Union statement deplores horrific attacks on Gaza

    The Fire Brigades Union deplores the horrific attacks on Gaza and calls for an immediate, negotiated and total ceasefire. The union sends our support, solidarity and sympathy to all those affected by the conflict, including the families of the victims.

  • PCS: Tax workers stage more strikes over job cuts

    Tens of thousands of tax workers will strike this week in an ongoing dispute over job cuts.

  • London Underground Sodexo staff to strike in union victimisation dispute

    Staff working for London Underground caterers Sodexo are to strike next week over the victimisation and dismissal of union activist Petrit Mihaj. The strike action will be between 06.30 hours and 11.00 hours on Monday 4th August.

  • 1934: American workers in revolt

    Battle of Deputies Run

    In 1934 three mighty strikes brought the bosses and bankers to their knees and ushered in a new era of labour-capital relations in the United States writes Sean Ledwith

  • NUJ solidarity with Palestinian journalists in Gaza: add your support

    As the Israeli military operation intensifies in Gaza, the NUJ parliamentary group has written to the UK government’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, demanding immediate action to secure the protection of journalists reporting in Gaza. Add your support.

  • Movement links

    Links to movement sites and resources for activists

  • Serbia: workers resist neoliberal attack on their rights

    Protest. Photo: UG Ravnopravnost

    Workers in Serbia have taken to the streets to defend their rights in the largest protest movement since the beginning of the global financial crisis writes Pavle Ilic of Marks21

  • Strike action brings victory for Tyneside Safety Glass workers!

    strike banner

    Three week strike wins the reinstatement of a sacked colleague and a 2.8% pay rise, with further above-inflation rises for the next two years

  • Social trade unionism can break the corporate juggernaut

    People's Assembly protest 21 June 2014

    For trade unions to fight back and win we need to tap into the massive political anger and idealism that is running right across society argues John Westmoreland

  • Clare Solomon: #J10 strikes a blow against cuts, war and racism

    Clare Solomon speaks on behalf of the People's Assembly from the platform at Trafalgar Square at a rally attended by striking public sector workers and their supporters on 10 July 2014

  • Thousands rally as public services are brought to a standstill

    Trafalgar Square

    Thousands of public sector workers and supporters descended on Trafalgar Square in a protest over pay, pensions and living standards. Reuben Bard-Rosenberg reports

  • #J10 liveblog

    Union notice board

    The largest strike in years rocks the Tories - rolling coverage from around the country in pictures, videos, tweets and reports

  • #J10: the people strike back

    National Demonstration Against Austerity. Photo:  Marienna Pope-Weidemann

    As millions strike and march together, we need to develop the alliance between unions and the majority who are under attack argues Chris Nineham

  • Staff and students protest in support of victimised UCU activist John Westmoreland

    Union members take part in the protest at York College

    Protestors demonstrated outside York College in support of John Westmoreland. Reece Goscinski reports

  • Defend John Westmoreland: History teacher and UCU activist

    John Westmoreland

    A campaign has developed at York College against management attacks on John Westmoreland, a popular History teacher and leading trade union activist

  • No More Austerity protest report

    No more Austerity protest

    Photographs, videos and tweets from the People's Assembly protest in central London on 21 June 2014

  • Gateshead: Unite the union members vote unanimously for strike action‏


    Glass workers in Gateshead are striking against an insulting pay deal. Tony Dowling reports

  • London remembers Orgreave

    © John Harris/reportdigital.co.uk

    Thirty years ago in June saw a defining moment of the Miners Strike. Mark Perryman explains why London is due to host an anniversary truth and justice benefit concert

  • Ritzy strike: Samba and celebrity support

    The staff of the Ritzy cinema on their sixth day on strike

    On their sixth strike day, the staff at Ritzy cinema staged a lively protest, which attracted the support of the local community, reports Peter Stäuber

  • The return of mass strikes

    It looks as if 10 July will be the largest day of strike action for two years. John Rees reports from discussions at the national meeting of the People’s Assembly

  • 5 reasons the strike in China is terrifying! (to transnational capitalism)

    China has seen one of the largest strikes ever in its private sector. Ashok Kumar reports

  • Tube strike: RMT liveblog

    RMT banner

    The RMT coverage of the strike to defend jobs and services on the London Underground

  • Tube strikers fight to save ticket offices

    Finsbury Park this morning

    Dan Poulton reports from the Finsbury Park picket line in the battle to save ticket offices from Boris Johnson's closure plans

  • NUT conference report‏: Engage! Pressure! Strike!

    One of the most interesting topics at the NUT's conference was not about whether to strike but how much strike action we should take! Tony Dowling reports

  • Doncaster fighting back in support of Care UK strikers

    Kirstine Carbutt, Care UK Doncaster shop steward addressing the demo. Photo John Rees

    Trade union banners from around the country were visible in support of the Care UK strikers' struggle

  • Video: Ritzy cinema workers strike for a living wage

    Britain's most successful arthouse cinema is shut down for the day as Ritzy cinema workers in Brixton, South London, strike for a living wage

  • Construction strikes spread - the fight for direct employment has begun

    Electricians strike in Three Bridges, Crawley. Photo: Site Worker

    Wildcat strikes have hit the construction industry as workers demand proper employment rights. Steve Leadbeater argues this is a battle we can clearly win and one we can not afford to lose

  • Thousands march to Central Hall to support NUT teachers' strike

    School students turned out in large numbers to support their teachers. Photograph Feyzi Ismail

    Teachers unite to fight against the cuts and unreasonable work loads. Ellen Graubart reports

  • Teachers: thousands strike and march in London


    Many here feel that the basic right of education for all are being compromised by the coalition government and so are taking a stand by marching today

  • SOAS cleaners in unprecedented two day strike for equal rights

    J4C strike picketFor the first time SOAS cleaners taken two days of strike action to win what most students and staff at SOAS perceive as perfectly reasonable demands reports Ruairidh Paton

  • Higher education strike liveblog 6th Feb

    Pickets in OxfordPhotos and tweets from strikers and supporters as workers in higher education across the UK took a third day's united strike action over pay

  • Five reasons to support the tube strike

    Picket line at Harrow on the Hill station. Photo by Manuel CortesClare Birkett offers five good reasons to back the Tube strikes

  • Tube strike - Finsbury Park report

    SolidarityChris Nineham and Feyzi Ismail speak to pickets at Finsbury Park station during a 48-hour strike over job and service cuts

  • Tube strike - London Bridge report

    London Bridge Tube strikeFran Legg and Alistair Cartwright talk to a union rep on this morning's picket at London Bridge

  • Tube strike live blog

    Pickets at BrixtonImages, reports and tweets from the 48 hour tube strike in defence of jobs and services on the London Underground

  • Lively picket lines at SOAS for latest strike

    SOAS picket lineSOAS saw lively picket lines yesterday, with staff and students turning out to support demands for fair pay

  • Korean railway strike: what is at stake?

    Members of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions stand face to face with South Korean policemen at their head office in Seoul December 22, 2013. Photo: Bae Jeong-Hyun

    Thousands of South Korean railworkers have ended their strike after three weeks of intense struggle against the right-wing President - but the fight is far from over writes Clive Tillman

  • Video: donate to the #3Cosas strike on 27 - 29 Jan

    clipAn appeal for contributions to the #3Cosas strike fund ahead of industrial action between the 27th and 29th of January

  • Staff and students defy management intimidation at Queen Mary’s UCU strike

    StrikeStaff and students at Queen Mary, University of London, rallied today in defiance of an aggressive attack on the right to strike by the college management, writes Katherine Connelly

  • Miners strike lies: thirty years of hurt‏

    miners strikeReleased cabinet papers confirm what we always knew - that Thatcher lied about almost every aspect of the Great Miners Strike of 1984-85. Former striking miner Joe Henry looks back in anger

  • Firefighters strike again in defence of their pension

    Firefighters StrikeFirefighters from Sunderland joined others across England and Wales as they strike for the fifth day over its ongoing dispute with the government over pensions. Mark Tyers reports

  • Goldsmiths strike and occupation

    GoldsmithsStudents at Goldsmiths University have occupied in support of striking staff

  • Strike in Further and Higher education 3 Dec 2013

    Images and video from the coordinated strike action by UCU, Unite, Unison, EIS and GMB unions in further and higher education

  • No ordinary pay strike: a battle for the future of education

    UCU strike

    Unite, UCU, Unison, GMB and EIS members working in post-16 education are striking for fair pay as five years of poverty pay rises take their toll

  • 3 Cosas strike live blog

    3 Cosas bannerCleaners and their supporters are taking two days of strike action at University of London to win sick pay, holiday pay and pensions

  • Video: Help make an inspiring strike even stronger‏

    3CosasCampaignOver 100 low-paid workers at University of London are going on strike next week. The strike is on 27th-28th November

  • York HE strike report

    comment'Although pay is important I feel incredibly angry about the way the University is putting education second to the need to make money from businesses on whose behalf the research is done'

  • SOAS occupies in solidarity with HE strike

    SOAS samba band'The day so far has been exciting, energetic and incredibly positive', reports Sam Dathi from the SOAS solidarity occupation

  • Teachers' strikes – where next?

    teachers strikeIf the teaching unions are to develop a strategy to win, then the joint action must be preserved and extended

  • People's Assembly welcomes postal workers strike vote

    Statement by the People's Assembly welcomes the postal workers strike on Nov 4th - the day before the Bonfire of Austerity day of Action

  • University workers vote to strike over pay

    University StrikeWorkers in Higher Education look set to take on the employers over years of pay cuts reports Graham Kirkwood, UCU member at Queen Mary University of London

  • King’s Lynn firefighters on strike

    ‘It is not the pay it is a matter of principle’

  • Support the PCS on Budget day

    The PCS union has voted to take strike action over pensions and pay this Wednesday as George Osborne announces another round of austerity measures in the annual Budget

  • Mary Barbour and the Glasgow Rent Strike

    Mary BarbourTrish Caird looks at the life of Mary Barbour, leader of the 1915 Glasgow Rent Strike - a movement that was principally led, organised and executed by women

  • Strike Magazine, Issue 1

    Elle Gierre finds a wealth of provocative, sizzling and dangerous ideas in the first issue of Strike! Magazine, with its diverse, visual and thought-provoking pieces

  • An introduction to Rosa Luxemburg’s The Mass Strike

    Rosa LuxemburgMarx 101 is a series of meetings to introduce the Marxist classics to activists in the twenty first century. Alastair Stephens continues the series with a look at Luxemburg's investigation of the mass strike

  • Runcorn strike: 'we're not slaves any more'

    Construction workers at a site in Runcorn have walked out in protest at poor conditions. Elly Badcock interviews a worker on site - referred to as ‘A’ due to the blacklist

  • Spain strikes back on N14

    madrid protest N14 2012Barcelona based writer Sofia Tipaldou on how the European day of action went in Spain

  • 'De-skilled, de-motivated, demoralised': Gateshead College lecturers strike back

    Lecturers at Gateshead College took to the picket lines again on Thursday morning to protest in their on-going dispute about conditions of service. “We‘ve been de-skilled, de-motivated & demoralised”, as one striker told me.

    As they organised placards for their members’ picket, UCU reps Alison Richardson & Julie Wright described the anger of lecturers at Gateshead College. They told me of how lecturers feel their professionalism is being undermined. The college wants to reduce the amount of planning and preparation time from 12 hours a week to just four.

    For some lecturers, weekly contact hours have increased from 24 to 33. The college also wants no cap on the annual hours worked.

    “There is a huge amount of discontent and a lack of confidence in the management’s decision-making process and what it’s been based upon,” says lecturer Steve Forester-Melville.

    “Many staff have been ‘demoted’ to learning facilitators after lecturing and running courses in the college for years,” he says.

    Union members are also angry that a structure that should have been in place at the start of term, giving time to adjust and prepare for new students, was implemented in October after students had been in for a month.

    “This has caused the biggest mess,” says Steve, “with courses without staff responsible for them and lecturers having to pick up or in some cases drop classes at the last minute, and all the while the management continue to say that the whole re-structuring is to improve the ‘learner experience’”.

    There have been posts on the college facebook page from many students expressing discontent about the disruption to the start of their courses at the college.

    Ritchie Bathgate, Chair of the UCU Branch at Gateshead College, said: "Members have shown great resolve by voting again for strike action in pursuit of an agreement on workload which we believe will protect the quality of education we deliver. We will continue this dispute until we have a deal that we can all sign up to."

    Jon Bryan, Regional Support Official for UCU, reported on his blog that, “There was good support at all picket lines. At the Skills Academy, many drivers showed their support by beeping their horns as they drove along the Kingsway.”

    A further strike by UCU members has been called for next Wednesday (10 October).

  • TUC: making resistance real

    Union protestThe TUC Congress has shown it's prepared to fight against the Coalition's austerity policies, now we need a strategy to make it happen argues Lindsey German

  • A Marxist History of the World part 85: June 1936: the French general strike and factory occupations

    In the mid-1930s French workers launched a wave of strikes and occupations. Neil Faulkner explains how the Stalinised Communist Party worked to contain this resistance

  • Korean truck drivers stage nationwide strike

    Clive Tillman reports from South Korea on a seminal truckers protest

  • Lessons from the Quebec Student Strike

    Students on strike in Quebec with a banner that says out of the classroom onto the streetsCayley Sorochan reports on the student strikes in Quebec and discusses the lessons that can be taken from them

  • UCU: Salford University staff strike to save jobs

    UCU members protesting outside Salford UniversityFaced with another ‘restructure’ - cutting nearly 200 jobs including compulsory redundancies - Salford University UCU members have declared enough is enough

  • The Spanish Miners' Strike

    Charley Dohren reports from Spain on the militant miners' strike that is shaking Rajoy's austerity regime.

  • Tilbury: strikes return to the docks

    tilbury strikersTilbury dockers said 'enough is enough' this week by taking official strike action for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century

  • Turkish government attacks the right to strike

    Kemal Ulker reports on the Turkish Government ’s plans to broaden its anti-union policies in an attack on the right to strike.

  • Video: London protest for Palestine's hunger strikers

    video clipPro-Palestinian activists gathered, Saturday, to remember the forcefull expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland with full complicity from the west, and pressure the British government.

  • Health workers: 'we need co-ordinated strikes to defend pensions'

    A Unison activist calls for coordinated strike action after the union's members in the NHS reject the government's 'final offer'

  • Teachers and lecturers must join the strike on May 10

    N30 strikeThe pensions battle continues on May 10 when civil servants and health workers will take strike action. John Westmoreland argues that teachers and lecturers need to be out with them.

  • Teachers vote to strike - a long hot summer for the Tories?

    NUT memberAt their annual conference teachers in the NUT union have voted to continue with strike action to win their campaign against the coalition government's attacks on pensions.

  • Spain: millions take to the streets in general strike

    Chris Bambery reports on the general strike which rocked Spain as millions challenged austerity policies being implemented by Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy.

  • British Police to strike

    Police are to go on strike for the first time in 93 years in return for sacrificing their lucrative overtime payments and bonuses.

  • India: millions set to strike

    People demonstrating in IndiaIndia's biggest display of working class strength for years is due on the 28th of February when 100 million workers take strike action. Sam Beaton analyses this volatile situation.

  • Swindon hospital workers strike back against racism and bullying

    video clipA strike by hospital workers in Swindon has galvanised the GMB union and the Goan community in the town to challenge bullying and harassment at the privately-run NHS Great Western Hospital.

  • News flash: Balfour lose in court, Sparks strike is on

    newsStop press: Balfour Beatty lose case against Unite. Sparks ballot result stands. Unite issues 7-day notice of intention to strike all BB sites.

  • Palestine: Khader Adnan on hunger strike

    Free KaderJoseph Daher visited the solidarity tent for Khader Adnan during his recent trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He explains why Adnan’s protest is significant.

  • Stagecoach drivers strike

    BannerDrivers working for Stagecoach escalate a 3-month dispute over unfair pay rates, Union News reports from Rotherham.

  • Workers at Remploy strike

    Remploy workerUnionNews reports on the first strike in the 65 year history of the specialised agency for disabled workers in the UK, Remploy.

  • Wincanton drivers strike

    Wincanton workersUnionNews reports on the start of seven days of strike action by more than 120 fuel haulage drivers in a campaign of industrial action to try to prevent cuts worth around 20% of their income.

  • Lightning strikes in tax offices over privatisation fears

    More than 20,000 tax officers will hold lightning walkouts tomorrow (16) against plans to bring in private companies to do their work, the Public and Commercial Services union announces.

    Union members who work in call centres and enquiry offices across the UK will stage a series of short strikes and are planning more for 31 January - the deadline for self-assessment returns and a key date in HMRC's diary.

    The action is in opposition to the appointment of two private companies, Sitel and Teleperformance, to run call handling trials in HMRC tax credit contact centres in Lillyhall in Cumbria and Bathgate in Scotland.

    The year-long trials are due to start in early February and the union is warning they risk paving the way for privatisation in the department, and come at a time when tens of thousands of civil service jobs are being cut.

    If HMRC believes there are issues to address in its call centres, it should invest in its own staff and in training, instead of handing public money to private companies.

    Staff will walk out at 10am for 30 minutes and again at 4.30pm. Anyone on a shift that finishes after 7pm will leave work 30 minutes early.

    PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "When jobs in HMRC and the civil service are being cut in their tens of thousands, it is entirely wrong to start handing contracts to private companies.

    "Instead of privatising ever more of our public services, the government should be investing in its own staff to ensure they are equipped and trained to provide the essential services they are proud to deliver."

  • Portugal: government on the rampage

    Portugal's new right-wing coalition government  is attacking living standards and urging young people to  emigrate, writes João Camargo.

  • Shanghai strike enters 8th day amid wave of unrest in China

    striking workersChina is experiencing increased social unrest as strike wave hits Shanghai region and the Pearl River Delta industrial area, whilst in Guangdong, thousands of villagers staged a sit-into protest against corruption and repression.

  • N30 Plymouth _ Union Solidarity with Occupy Plymouth _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Tony Staunton emphasises Trade Union solidarity with the Occupy Plymouth group.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Dave Franklin PCS _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Dave Franklin, PCS, gives the last speech of the day at the Plymouth Holiday Inn, 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Chaz Singh & Paddy Ryan, PTUC Hon President 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Chaz Singh of Fatah-He and World War II Veteran, 91 year old Paddy Ryan, speak with passion, clarity and commitment at the Plymouth Holiday Inn on 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Phil Smith ATL _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Phil Smith of the ATL talks about the strike and the issue of agency workers in the teaching profession at the Holiday Inn, Plymouth on 30th November 2011..
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Chris Webb CWU _ 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Awesome speech by Chris Webb of the CWU. Provocative, penetrating and inspiring stuff! All the best to Plymouth Argyle Supporters!
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Poem and Sarah Allen-Melvin PCS 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Rob Barrett reads a poem and Sarah Allen-Melvin gives a rousing speech at Plymouth Holiday Inn, 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Cathy Wallis NASUWT 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Interesting and informative insights into the real issues surrounding pensions from Cathy Wallis of the NASUWT. The Holiday Inn, Plymouth, 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Pete Allensen Unite 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Pete Allensen of Unite addresses the audience at the N30 rally in Plymouth Holiday Inn on 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Sharon Battishill UNISON & Harriet Davis NUT 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Sharon Battishill of UNISON and Harriet Davis of the NUT address the rally at the Holiday Inn, Plymouth on 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Pat Sikorski RMT 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Pat Sikorski of the RMT gives an interesting, informative, and inspiring speech about the role of Trade Unions and how they can move forward with the battle against austerity.
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  • N30 Strike Action London Demonstration - Press Estimate of Crowd Numbers Under Scrutiny

  • N30 Plymouth _ 2500 marchers in Plymouth City Centre 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org 2500 marchers including Trade Unionists and Occupy movement activists march through Plymouth city centre on 30th November 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Derriford Hospital 00.00 am 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    Plymouth's first picket line forms, just after midnight on 30th November 2011. www.counterfire.org
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Chelson Meadow Picket Line 6.30 am 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Barry and Kevin talk about their reasons for striking in Plymouth on November 30th 2011.
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  • N30 Plymouth _ Prince Rock Depot Picket Line 4.30 am 30.11.11 _ Strike! Occupy! Resist!

    www.counterfire.org Steve and Ryan talk about their reasons for striking in Plymouth on November 30th 2011.
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  • Alex Sioutzouk Greek Power Workers Union

  • The crisis of the British regime: democracy, protest and the unions

    The British political regime faces a crisis of confidence. This report presents empirical evidence for the democratic deficit, growing protest, the state of the trade unions and the strategic implications for the left

  • Radio debate: would you scab on the pensions strike?

    John ReesThe coalition government is trying to recruit civil servants to act as border agency staff during the November 30th pensions strike - John Rees debates the issues on Radio 2's the Jeremy Vine show.

  • N30 Strikes, would you scab? John Rees on Jeremy Vine show 24 Nov 2011

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  • Egypt: military rulers repress strike wave

    http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/23417.aspxEgyptian revolutionary Mohamed Atef writes from Cairo with a brief background to the workers struggle in recent weeks.

  • Mark Campbell University College Union -Unite the Resistance Building the Fight Preparing to Strike

  • John McDonnell MP Unite the Resistance Building the Fight Preparing to Strike 19.11.11.mpg

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  • Video: Unison votes 'Yes' for Nov30 strike

    Unison screenUnionNewsreports on the ballot announcement by UNISON of an overwhelming majority in favour of strike action against the coalition government's proposals to cut public sector pensions and force hundreds of thousands to pay more, work longer, for less money in retirement.

  • Healthcare workers strike in Northern Ireland

    More than 26,000 healthcare workers in Northern Ireland went on strike yesterday to protest against budget cuts in the sector and potential job losses. They will likely join millions on strike on 30th November.

  • Petition: Students and the NUS must build the 30th November strikes

    Student leaders have issued a petition aimed to pressure the NUS to call a national day of action on 30th November, the day on which possibly millions of workers could go on strike. Sign the petition via the link below.

  • Newcastle: teachers, students and supporters unite at Kenton School picket

    Teachers from the NUT, ATL and NASUWT unions at Kenton School, a large secondary school in Newcastle, began the first of three days of strike action today. They are taking action over plans to turn the school into an academy.

  • All out for the 30th Nov... the perfect storm is approaching

    TUC voteThe coming together of economic and political crisis with mass strike action is an historical opportunity for the left, argues John Rees.

  • #N30 - trade unions plan united strike for pensions

    Marching together on 30 June
    The fight is on. TUC conference today unanimously backed co-ordinated industrial action to defend public sector pensions. The country's three largest unions - Unite, Unison and GMB - formally announced they will ballot members for strikes.

    On 30 June civil service union PCS, teacher unions NUT and ATL and lecturers' union UCU held a co-ordinated national strike involving over half a million people. They plan futher national strike action in November.

    But today's announcement by the big battalions of Unison, Unite and GMB holds out the hope of a huge escalation in the campaign to protect pensions. Other unions balloting for action are the Fire Brigades Union, teachers' NASUWT, Scottish teachers' EIS, senior civil service union FDA and Northern Ireland's NIPSA.

    There have been strikes by local government workers in Birmigham, Southampton and Doncaster. But their unions, most importantly Unison which has over a million members across local government and the NHS, have previously held back from national strike action.

    TUC leader Brendan Barber announced the date as 30 November following a special meeting of public sector unions immediately after TUC conference. National co-ordination is vital to confront a concerted government effort to make workers pay more, work longer and get less.

    The announcement of a ballot by Unison general secretary Dave Prentis was greeted by a standing ovation at the TUC. Prentis has recently shown he can retreat rapidly from good rhetoric. There must now be huge grassroots pressure to turn words into action. The stakes could hardly be higher.

    Ed Miliband's pathetic stance on the strikes has already been thrown back at him by the Tories in prime minister's question time. This sort of behaviour by Labour leaders is bad enough at any time, but when strikes are clearly on the horizon it leaves him irrelevant - and himself part of a 'squeezed middle' who will become increasingly weak and marginal.

    Unity is key - across the public sector unions and reaching out to the private sector. As PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said today: "We have always said that the more united we are, the harder it will be for the government to push through their ideologically-driven and damaging cuts. This is not just a fight for public servants, we want fair pensions for all."

    Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, has emphasised the need to link up with private sector workers over pensions, especially since the government is trying to divide and rule over supposedly 'gold plated' public sector pensions. Given the weakness of union organisation in the private sector, this is an essential part of building a movement across the whole working class. McCluskey has also stressed the need for a coalition of resistance, which can give a boost to the international conference against austerity on Saturday 1 October.

    There will now need to be jointly-organised mass campaign rallies and protests throughout the country. These can be on a much bigger scale than before. Trade union activists will be campaigning for the highest possible Yes vote.

    The pensions dispute is for the whole anti-cuts movement, not just public sector trade unionists. It is our movement's best chance to strike a blow against this government's austerity drive.

    Also published at Counterfire

  • Pensions battle: unions plan united strike on 30 November

    United strike action by over a million public sector workers came a step closer today, as Britain's three biggest unions announced strike ballots over government attacks on pensions.

  • Egypt: strikes spread ahead of Tahrir mass rally

    As militant textile workers in Mahalla plan to strike indefinitely from Saturday, Egypt's Revolutionary Youth Coalition has called for a mass rally in Tahrir Square this Friday.

  • New term, new strikes: teaching unions set to escalate pensions campaign

    Message from Christine Blower, general secretary, to NUT members:

    'Thank you for your continued support for our campaign to defend teachers' pensions. This term will see an escalation of the campaign.

    We are continuing to work closely with colleagues in ATL and UCU following our extremely well-supported action on 30 June. Given the Government's position we expect that further industrial action will be required later this term. Our sister union in Scotland - the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) - is preparing to ballot their members, as is the National Association of Head Teachers.

    The Government has had numerous opportunities to negotiate fairly on public sector pensions. However, Ministers have persistently refused to listen to the facts. Teachers' pensions are affordable and sustainable. We cannot and will not stand by and see them eroded for purely political reasons.

    As the General Secretary of the only union to campaign consistently for one union for all teachers, I am delighted that the teaching profession is coming together against the unnecessary attacks that the Government has launched on our pensions.

    Our campaign will be even stronger now. We will be in touch next week about the next steps in the campaign.'

  • Oxfordshire youth workers to strike against cuts | 23 August

    Youth workers in Oxfordshire are taking strike action on Tuesday in defence of their jobs and of Oxfordshire’s youth service – all youth centres face closure in David Cameron’s constituency.

  • Support the indefinite strike at South Yorkshire Newspapers

    Last Friday, journalists at South Yorkshire Newspapers went on all out indefinite strike to fight massive cuts at their newspaper, whose titles include the Doncaster Free Press.

  • Teaching unions meet to co-ordinate November strikes

    This has just been circulated to NUT members from the union's general secretary Christine Blower.

    'I'm writing to update you on our pensions campaign and our negotiations with Government.

    Following the recent TUC-led discussions, detailed talks will now be held on each public sector scheme including our Teachers' Pension Scheme.

    Our strike on 30 June showed the Government the extent of anger within the profession. It had a positive impact on public opinion and exposed the Government's arguments about affordability as untrue.

    We remain committed to negotiating an agreement on our pensions. Strike action is always a last resort. There is a real danger, however, that the Government may try to impose arbitrary constraints which prevent agreement happening. The Government has not conceded any of its demands and continues to threaten increases in our pension contributions as a first step from next April.

    All of the England and Wales teacher unions met today and began to draw up joint campaigning plans for the Autumn term. We hope the Government will agree to genuine negotiations. However, if the Government will not budge, then ATL, NUT and UCU will have to consider further industrial action in November. NAHT and UCAC have also now decided to ballot their members for industrial action.

    For a joint statement from the ATL, NUT and UCU on taking forward the pensions campaign, go to http://www.teachers.org.uk/pensions

    The Government has lost teachers' confidence over its handling of our pensions but it now has a final chance to listen to reason.

    We wish you a restful summer holiday so that we can all return renewed and refreshed and determined to protect our pensions.'

  • King’s Lynn - supporting the strike, campaigning against cuts

    video clipIn this activist video, William Alderson follows anti-cuts campaigners in King's Lynn as they visit striking PCS members on the picket line and campaign against cuts in the town centre

  • June 30th Strike Live Blog

    Reports, images and video from Thursday's public sector strikes against attacks on pensions - from the Coalition of Resistance June 30 Live Blog.

  • Public Sector Pensions Strike 30th June - King's Lynn

    www.coalitionofresistance.org Video by William Alderson
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  • 30th June Pensions Strike - King's Lynn

    www.coalitionofresistance.org by William Alderson
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  • June 30 Public sector Strike over Pensions London Protest

    Raw footage of 45 minutes of London Protest passing at junction of Kingsway and Aldwych. My battery ran out - the march continued for over 15 minutes after I stopped filming. www.counterfire.org
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  • Support the pensions strike - build the movement against cuts

    On StrikeThe UK’s biggest co-ordinated industrial action for decades takes place on June 30th - everyone who opposes the cuts must support the strikes - and help make them part of a European wide movement of direct action in resistance to austerity.

  • NUT leader: no progress in negotiations - strike on Thursday

    Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, sent this message to NUT members yesterday:

    'After the conclusion of today's talks with Government, the NUT unfortunately has no other option but to go ahead with the planned day of strike action on Thursday 30 June.

    The Government isn't listening

    The Government is still saying that teachers will have to pay more, work longer and get less. This despite the fact that teachers' pensions were only recently reformed, are affordable as confirmed by the National Audit office and the valuation promised in that agreement has still not taken place.

    Unfortunately, the Government has done nothing more today than confirm that it has no intention of listening to teachers. We will, of course, attend all future talks but, for talks to be meaningful, the Government really does need to address teachers' central concerns. The NUT needs to demonstrate the strength of feeling amongst members on this issue.

    We are not alone

    The NUT will be taking strike action alongside colleagues in the ATL on 30 June. Lecturers in the UCU and civil servants in the PCS will also be taking action on that day.

    The Government's stance means that action on Thursday is unavoidable and unless the Government starts listening rather than simply imposing its will, we will have little choice but to consider further action.

    Please support the strike action on 30 June and join us if you can at one of the many rallies taking place across England and Wales. You can find the event nearest to you here: http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/13433

    To keep up-to-date with developments, follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/nutonline

    If you have not yet emailed your MP about pensions, please go to www.teachers.org.uk/pensions to email them now. Finally, please invite any colleagues not in the NUT to join us: http://www.teachers.org.uk/join

    Thank you for your support.'

  • All aboard the Glasgow CoR - PCS Strike Support Bus | 30 June

    Glasgow Coalition of Resistance have organised a Strike Support Bus for the day of the pensions strikes on 30th June to take people round the picket lines delivering solidarity.

  • New site listing actions in support of June 30 Pensions Strike - J30strike.org

    J30strike.org is a new site collating information about pickets and actions in support of the June 30 pensions strike.

  • 30 June: Gove urges parents into classrooms to break teachers' strike

    This is, according to the editor of BBC Radio 4's What the Papers Say (via Twitter), the front page of tomorrow's Independent on Sunday.

  • UK Uncut Big Society Breakfast: 'strike action is direct action'

    See the Facebook Event for UK Uncut's Big Society Breakfast on 30 June.

  • What do we mean by a General Strike?

    troops on streets 1926Chris Harman, in this article from 1985, summarises the history of general strikes and analyses different forms of mass working class resistance. He also outlines the factors determining when it is appropriate for socialists to raise the general strike slogan.

  • Teachers: large vote for strike shows mood to resist

    The 92% vote for strike action in the NUT isn’t just a victory for teachers - it should inspire others to take action. NUT member Nick Jones looks at the background to the vote and why it represents a mood to resist government attacks.

  • Should the left be calling for a general strike?

    I have previously been dismissive of calls for a general strike in response to the cuts. I've made passing references to the issue, but not outlined in detail why I think the call is currently misguided. 

    It is clear the issue isn't going away - chunks of the radical left in this country appear preoccuppied with raising the general strike slogan. Let's carefully think through the issue. I'll explain why I think such calls are premature.

    Start with this general principle. The validity of any tactic - and a tactic is what the general strike is - depends upon the political conditions. This encompasses a range of factors, including the mood and consciousness of the working class. It rests especially upon the strength of organisation and combativity on our side. At times a particular tactic may be viable and appropriate; at other times the same tactic may not be realistic or useful.

    The general strike slogan is almost always inappropriate. It is only valid in exceptional circumstances. Since the mid-1970s there's only been one occasion when the saner elements of the radical left have raised the slogan: in response to pit closures in October 1992.

    The political environment was such that a demonstration of 250,000 could be organised by the TUC at just days' notice. A strong case could be made for the left raising the call for a general strike - even though it was exceptionally unlikely the TUC general council would call one - because it chimed with the popular mood and was a logical next step to build on the national demonstration and the big local rallies happening across the country.

    It should therefore be clear - if this is the only time the slogan has been raised, in any credible way, in the last 35 years - that it takes a remarkable situation for the general strike call to be legitimate. Socialists who raise the slogan are effectively saying we currently live in a time far more favourable to a general strike than we've had for a very long time.

    The case for - and against

    In favour of such a case are three factors:

    1. The seriousness of what we face - a massive cuts and privatisation agenda affecting the whole working class - requires a massive response.

    2. The fact we've already had half a million people on a national demonstration.

    3. The strikes on 30 June indicate the potential for co-ordinated national strikes.

    In response to these 3 points, however, we might note:

    1. The scale of the attack sadly doesn't tell us anything about the strength and combativity of forces on our side. It's true that in the long term we need mass strikes, alongside mass demonstrations and a range of protest methods, to stop the cuts. But that doesn't mean the working class is equipped to fight a general strike now.

    2. While 26 March was huge, united and a reassertion of union power, it tells
    us more about the potential for mass protest than about the capacity for strike action. We've had over 20 years - from the anti-poll tax movement onwards - of resistance in the workplaces regrettably lagging far behind resistance on the streets.

    3. Although 30 June is a very important step forward, it is a long way from a general strike. Those who think it's a plausible transition to go from 30 June to a general strike evidently have little grasp of what a general strike actually involves.

    So, what is a general strike? It can be either one-day or indefinite. It can be a legal, bureaucratically-controlled strike or a massive grassroots rebellion which spreads, outside official structures, like wildfire. Most socialists appear to be referring - in current calls for a general strike - to a one-day, legal strike. It seems, also, that the TUC general council is expected to authorise it.

    It's not clear if they hope for all workers to strike or merely all trade unionists. There's a big difference: the majority of workers are not in unions. Let's assume they mean all trade unionists and accept it is unlikely the non-unionised will participate.

    What are the obstacles to a general strike?

    The first problem is that there isn't currently a widespread mood for a general strike. Passing resolutions in union conferences is one thing, but winning the argument with millions of union members is quite another.

    I detect little evidence that millions of working people are having conversations about the possibility of a general strike, its pros and cons, whether they personally support it. Raising a slogan which depends for its implementation on the actions of millions only makes sense when it resonates widely, not just among the established left and among some union activists.

    A second problem is the weakness of the unions. Membership has fallen in recent years. Coverage by collective agreements has suffered a marked decline. Strike levels have in recent years hit historic lows. Only 1 in 6 of private sector workers are in a union, creating a huge difficulty in spreading mass strikes from the public sector to the private sector (which has the majority of workers, but only a minority of union members).

    A third problem concerns the question 'what would the general strike actually be demanding?' The assumption appears to be that public sector pensions will be the issue. But why does anyone imagine private sector trade unionists will strike in defence of public sector pensions? Solidarity is essential in the union movement, but there are few grounds for thinking that private sector unions will be part of such action.

    If 39% of PCS members who voted in the union's ballot opposed striking to defend their own pensions, it seems unlikely that trade unionists with nothing to gain personally will strike to defend other people's pensions. It is sometimes claimed that pensions is an issue where the government is recklessly taking on the whole working class, thus threatening united resistance, but that isn't entirely true. It isn't comparable to the poll tax (over 20 years ago) or the NHS (today) as a class-wide issue. The Tories will of course relentlessly seek to divide public and private sectors against each other.

    Perhaps the general strike advocates imagine the issue will be cuts in general. But that leads on to a fourth problem: such strike action is unlikely under the anti-union laws. There is nothing to indicate union leaders are prepared to break those laws. Any legal strike action will have to be over clearly defined issues, which directly affect members of any given union, and be organised through the proper channels.

    This point leads on to the fifth problem: the power, and conservatism, of the union bureaucracies. A general strike is dependent on the most conservative body in the union movement: the TUC general council. Why does anyone think it is plausible this body will call a general strike, without the kind of mass pressure from below we are nowhere near getting?

    The sixth and final problem is political. Labour is bitterly hostile to strike action which falls a long way short of a general strike. There will be massive pressure on the unions from leading Labour politicians to dampen any resistance. Labourism remains a powerful force in the working class. The relationship between Labour and the union bureaucracy is tight.

    The Labour left is very weak, as is the left outside Labour. While socialists must put strong independent political arguments, these problems will be relevant to what the unions do in the months ahead.

    Why are some socialists raising the slogan?

    All this can make things seem gloomy. Not at all: there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about the course of anti-cuts resistance. It's just that a general strike isn't yet on the agenda.

    Some on the left say a general strike must be realistic because five union conferences have now passed resolutions supporting one. This is rather naive. Resolution-mongering is as old as the trade union movement. It is easy for a union to pass such a motion - it doesn't require the union to do anything at all.

    Thirty union conferences could call for a general strike - it counts for very little unless it reflects a wider debate inside thousands of workplaces throughout the country. I would have been more impressed by those union conferences passing motions calling for the TUC to organise a huge national demonstration in the autumn, as that is a serious and realistic next step which will, nevertheless, only happen as a result of pressure.

    Why, then, are so many socialists calling for something implausible? Partly it is a symptom of our weakness - the slogan appeals precisely because there is relatively little strike action, 30 June notwithstanding. Trade unionists feel fairly helpless and the general strike slogan can fit that sense of their being huge challenges but a gaping chasm between them and the actual level of strike action. It is a magic bullet, a short cut.

    Calling for a general strike is easy. It means you can evade the rather thornier tactical issues we do need to address in the here and now. That's one reason it is dangerous - it means abdicating responsibility for advocating and pursuing concrete tactics to take the struggle forward.

    Chris Harman wrote in 1985:

    'The slogan of the general strike fits a certain point in the workers’ struggle. But it is wrong to raise it as a panacea before that point is reached. That merely avoids confronting the real needs of the movement.'

    Harman also noted that a general strike, in any credible sense of the term, raises political questions about confronting the state and even workers' power: 'if the slogan did fit (and it will do one day) then it would be necessary to raise alongside it slogans about rank and file control and about confrontation with the state'. It should be obvious we aren't presently in a situation where the general strike call is particularly credible, however desirable it might be.

    It is also a way for socialist groups to distinguish themselves as more radical than the broader movement or the union leaderships. It is good rhetoric. But that inflated rhetoric masks deeper weaknesses and lack of influence on events. It is feelgood stuff, but has no positive influence on the direction of any real struggles or campaigns.

    I've heard it claimed that calling for a general strike is an 'agitational slogan', i.e. it isn't supposed to be realistic but the point is to use it as a means of raising the level of strike activity. But the strike ballots in PCS, UCU, NUT and ATL were not won as a result of socialist groups agitating for a general strike. They were won on the basis of raising awareness about the seriousness and scale of the threat to pensions, linking that issue to a bigger political and economic picture, and outlining why a strike can be at least partially effective.

    It's also sometimes claimed that if they can have general strikes in Greece, France and elsewhere then we can have one here. The general strikes in Europe have been inspiring, if almost entirely limited to one-day action which has only won partial victories at best. And in principle the point is correct. But general strikes elsewhere don't directly affect the likelihood of one happening here - nor should they distract us from the more modest, but still ambitious and important, tasks we have in Britain.

    Next steps

    What is needed, instead of largely abstract and ineffectual calls for a general strike, is what I outlined in my recent article '30 June: a day for the whole movement'. We need three things: further nationally co-ordinated strikes, the participation of a wider range of unions in strike action, and a mass campaign using a range of means (including a national demonstration in the autumn) to complement strikes.

    These points are realistic, but nonetheless contested - and involve us moving well beyond where we are now. They are real, concrete issues for us to wrestle with now. They bring us into conflict with more conservative elements in the labour movement, and require conducting a dialogue with people around us (in the unions and beyond) about how to build a more effective movement.

    The last point - building a broad mass movement opposing the cuts - is especially crucial at a time when strike action is still patchy. It involves millions of people outside the public sector unions and raises a political challenge to the Tory-led coalition's savage cuts and privatisation agenda.

    Building such a movement is, among other things, a better way of creating the conditions where a general strike becomes a realistic proposition than passing resolutions at union conferences and putting ‘general strike now’ on placards.

    I recommend reading Chris Harman's 'What do we mean by the general strike?' 


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