Today I have been on strike.
I am a member of Unison which is one of the Unions whose members are currently in dispute with the government about the so called “austerity” cuts to public services, and to the pay, conditions and pensions of public sector workers.
Trade Unionism is in my blood and yes, I get emotional about it. I’m not ashamed of that, but I am ashamed to live in a country where the public services that form the bedrock of a civilized society are being degraded in the way this current government seems to have no shame in doing, along with freezing the pay of those who work hard to try to continue to deliver them.
Although I support the aims of the strike from the bottom of my heart, what I feel even more strongly about is the danger to the whole trade union movement that this current dispute has highlighted. The Tories have now announced that they want to cut the unions down completely and effectively leave workers without a negotiating function at all. To achieve this they are aiming to bring in legislation that will remove the right to strike unless it has a mandate which exceeds the one on which many MPs themselves were elected. And this is democracy? It makes me want to weep.
If you have no collective bargaining you have no means of negotiating, you are reduced to begging. This is what a government that aims to cripple the unions should remember. Do they really want to promote the imbalance in power that this would cause. The IMF has something to say on this which the current government would do well to heed.
As for me, today’s action left me feeling uplifted. There are a lot of people out there who feel frustration at the way public services are being cynically attacked under the guise of dealing with the “deficit”. I don’t know if we can change anything, but at least we are trying, and we are being heard. Collective withdrawal of labour is the last resort and it isn’t done lightly, but feelings are strong because those of us who work in the public sector see first hand the damage that the cuts to services is causing.
Today I was very proud to feel the Power of a Union.