Just over a quarter of all British workers are in a trade union. Up to three-quarters of a million of them will be out on strike this coming Thursday, 30 June (J30).
That leaves millions of workers not coming out, many of whom might be wondering why public sector workers are striking over the kind of pensions that no longer exist in the private sector.
Some people call socialism the politics of envy, but isn’t it interesting how many people opposed to the strikes talk about gold-plated pensions and how bad the pensions are in the private sector? Sounds a bit envious, doesn’t it?
The tragedy is that the people who are pushing this argument – the government, bosses in the private sector hoping to profit from the government’s demolition derby through the public sector – many of them still have really good pensions. Go have a look, if you work in a private company with a crap pension scheme, find out what kind of scheme the bosses have.
In many cases, you’ll find that they still have a very rewarding scheme. You might also find that their schemes got a little bit better around the same time the old staff pensions scheme was closed – you know, the old one that three or four people in the building still have, the people who are looking forward to retiring! The reason why public sector pensions are still there to be attacked is because more people in the public sector are in unions and they’re willing to fight.
Opposing public sector strikes over pensions because they’re better than in the private sector is like standing in the wreckage of your house after it’s been hit in a flood – and then insisting that the house next door with better waterproofing should get hosed by the fire brigade.
If you’re not in a union, you should still be supporting J30, but there are a couple of other things you should do – in this order:
- Monday: Join a union. Find out which union or unions are the appropriate ones for your workplace and choose one and join them. If you have political issues about unions – whether you think they’re too radical or not radical enough – join and get involved. Most unions have very democratic structures, the problem is nobody uses them. Join, get active and change things.
- Tuesday: Get your workplace organised. Recruit more people to the union, form a shop or a chapel or whatever your workplace calls it.
- Wednesday: Start demanding things. More money is a good start, but start putting pensions into the mix. A 2% increase in pay would be good in the current economic climate, but add in a 1% increase in management contributions to staff pensions.
- Thursday (J30): Take part in solidarity actions before work, at lunchtime, after work – during work if you think you can get away with it.
- Friday: Bring down the government.
- Saturday/Sunday: Take a break, you’ve earned it.
This might be a little bit ambitious, but even if you just manage step 1, that’ll be a start.
UPDATE: If you are in a union, but not one of those on strike on J30, start with point 2 on Monday and you can spend Wednesday preparing for Thursday.