From Militant, November–December 1992.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.
Proofread by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL). (July 2012)
As we go to press the government’s autumn statement on public expenditure has not been made. But it is clear that the news for public sector workers will be ominous.
The cabinet are discussing rises in the next pay round of 2%, 1% or possibly a pay freeze. With inflation set to rise this means a pay cut for all public sector workers. In Northern Ireland where 40% of all employment is in the public sector the consequences will be particularly severe. Anticipating resistance the Tories are preparing new anti-trade union legislation, which they hope to have in place in time to shackle the public sector unions and prevent opposition.
First drafts of this legislation include the following:
- A statutory seven day notice before strikes.
- Employers to be allowed to get regular consent from employees for union dues to be deducted from wages not just to join but to keep re-joining the union. The Tories hope this will cut union funds.
- Abolishing wages councils that act minimum pay rates for 2.5 million workers and force more people into the poverty of low pay.
- Allowing any individual to take out injunctions against unlawful strikes.
The Tories calculate that they can boost the morale of their ever disheartened ranks by attacking the unions and the public sector. As with the miners this can prove to be a total miscalculation. The onus is on the unions, especially the public sector unions, not to be cowered by wage restraint and anti-union legislation.
New curbs on strikes should be treated with contempt. Workers who took strike action in support of the miners treated the existing laws with contempt when they defied them. Public sector unions must link together in a coordinated campaign, including preparation for strike action, to smash Tory pay restraint and win rises which at the very least keep pace with the cost of living. This is a weak and desperate government which can be defeated by decisive action.
Last updated: 31 August 2016