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

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A General Strike & the general lack of strikes

Hollow cliches about organising a General Strike have become a commonplace in union meetings since last year's Trades Union Congress - when a majority of trade unions went along with a POA proposal that the TUC leadership should 'investigate the practicalities of a General Strike':

That such demands can be made with any credibility, given the current low levels of industrial militancy and the absence of evidence that large swathes of unionised workers are ready to respond to a general strike call, is in no small part due to the opportunism and self serving gesture politics of some union leaders who fail to point out these basic if uncomfortable realities.

One of the few on the left who has outlined the objective conditions necessary for a General Strike to be viable is Gregor Gall who pointed out that 'what would make the holding of a general strike much more probable and potent would be if the general level of strike activity was much higher. If there was then there would a more palpable sense that a general strike came out of and feed back into a rising level of more confident struggle by workers where their sectional and class consciousnesses were of a higher order':

Strike trends during 2012 showed a significant reduction since the national days of action to defend pensions in November 2011 and May 2012 - despite widespread job losses in the public and private sectors (with negligible strike action in the latter): http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/december-2012/table-labd01.xls  

In the public sector the regrettable lack of traction for strike action on pay in local government (in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK) as we enter the fourth year of a Government imposed pay freeze/restraint is in itself a sufficient retort to the tiresome phrase mongers who tout a General Strike as an instant cure to austerity in the same way religious obsessives argue that the second coming of Christ will instantaneously resurrect the righteous from the dead.

Our priority in UNISON must to generate member support for action on pay - bargaining on the 2013/14 NJC pay claim is still at an early stage - and not be diverted by our own version of the Second Adventists who believe dogma is a substitute for industrial strategy.