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Rage at inequality fires workers' action
"We have to let management know we won't accept this pay freeze anymore," were the angry words of one striking journalist at the Southampton Echo picket last week. Elsewhere local government workers in Southampton and across Hampshire are preparing for a fight against massive cuts to terms and conditions, cuts to services and the threat to jobs.
Nick Chaffey, Secretary Southampton Shop Stewards Network (SSSN)
Newly elected Hampshire Unison branch secretary and Socialist Party member Tim Cutter, speaking in a personal capacity at the SSSN public meeting in December said: "Our branch has taken a clear stand to oppose all cuts in jobs, services, pay and conditions. Our stewards support this stand and at meetings across Hampshire, members have shown their anger at the attacks and want to fight back. Members are taking a leaf out of the books of the students, no doubt inspired by their thousand plus demo through Winchester."
Just before Christmas, mass pickets of angry NHS cleaners in Southampton showed how a new tradition is being laid down. In just a year these cleaners have organised themselves. Over 90% are now in the union, led by determined stewards. They represent seven different nationalities and are united in their determination to fight for justice over unpaid wages and sick pay.
When they marched around the hospital during their strike they discovered the chief executive in a downstairs, glass fronted room. Such was their anger, they rushed forward banging on the windows demanding: "We want our money!" NHS managers beat a hasty retreat.
At a public consultation meeting over the threat to the Bitterne NHS walk-in service, a unanimous vote against cuts sent a defiant message to NHS bureaucrats that cuts will be fought.
Underlying all these disputes is a deep sense of injustice at the gross inequality between workers and the bosses. Hospital cleaners highlight the lavish bonuses NHS managers pay themselves. Striking journalists point to the 21% pay rise awarded to the Newsquest chief executive.
Council workers can see money spent on overpaid executives, councillors and consultants with privatisation profits lining the pockets of their friends in big business. Eight Southampton NHS Primary Care Trust executives each earn six figure salaries, in total over £1 million.
Everywhere there is a growing mood of anger. Unfortunately this anger is lacking a galvanising national leadership prepared to take on the government. The TUC nationally is setting a tone of passivity, reflected by many officials locally.
As the cuts bite, thousands of campaigns will spring up across the country. If they are to be effective and defeat this government they must be tied together by a thousand threads into a united fight of the trade unions, communities, students, youth and pensioners. If the TUC fail to do this, we must be prepared to take up the challenge.
The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has played a central role in 2010, building pressure on the TUC to act and supporting and organising a fightback from below. In 2009 it bought together some of the leading trade union fighters from the disputes and struggles at Lindsey, Linamar, Visteon and Vestas.
As 2011 opens with an outline of huge attacks to come, the NSSN proposals to launch an all-Britain anti-cuts campaign will give great confidence to all those groups of workers and youth fighting back and looking for support and solidarity in their struggles.
In The Socialist 12 January 2011:
Youth fight for jobs
International socialist news and analysis
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news