UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The pros and cons of 'smart' industrial action

A timely article in today’s Morning Star by Gregor Gall on the options facing health unions, including UNISON, as the inevitable industrial action in defence of NHS pensions draws closer: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk

Professor Gall compares and contrasts the effectiveness of all out action – on an escalating basis – with more flexible, selective action, which would involve strike action by strategic groups and other forms of protest action at workplaces and in communities.

The ongoing dispute involving UNISON and Unite members in Southampton City Council has been an excellent example of sustaining long term pressure on an intransigent employer by key groups of workers taking flexible action. It undoubtedly lends itself to an industrial action strategy in the NHS.

Reference is made in the article to the 1989 ambulance workers dispute and lessons to be learned from that in which the UNISON partner unions won important concessions after facing down the Thatcher Government for more than 6 months, particularly by winning overwhelming public support and massive solidarity from other unions.

Gall correctly advocates industrial action which ‘creates political rather than economic pressure. The reason for this is the Government is the target and the public sector is not the private sector.’

A balance must be struck between high impact all out action and more sustainable selective action. They are not mutually exclusive given the large numbers of workers involved in NHS bargaining groups.

Securing pensions justice for NHS workers will depend on the health unions identifying and delivering on an effective combination of both forms of action ahead of the proposed changes in April 2012.