23 April 2012
The joint programme of action we announced in mid-April is designed to put the maximum pressure on ministers to make a serious and genuine effort to negotiate on the key pensions issues – something they have so far failed to do in more than 12 months of discussions.
Starting with national strike action by unions in the civil service, health and education sectors on 10 May, we will not only be showing opposition to the government's unnecessary and counter-productive cuts, we will be arguing that there is always an alternative.
I know there was some disappointment that we didn't strike on 28 March, but I believe it was the right decision. We must stick to a strategy that can win. Since then we have worked hard to build the kind of action we need to force concessions.
We have always said with fewer unions on board in the pensions fight we will need to do more. In our wider campaigning against the coalition’s cuts we need to work closely with groups such as UK Uncut and Disabled People Against the Cuts – who have shown through direct action how relatively small numbers of people can make a big impact.
Along with these and others – from the National Pensioners Convention and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, to activists from the Occupy Movement and local anti-cuts alliances – unions like ours are part of an opposition that is otherwise lacking in parliament.
What we have in common with these campaigners is that we can all clearly see that austerity isn't working.
Belt-tightening, all in it together, call it what you want – it is a big lie. While for 99% of us pensions are being robbed, pay and benefits cut, and jobs axed in their tens of thousands, the millionaire chancellor George Osborne is handing other millionaires tax cuts so they can profit from others' pain.
Our economy, Osborne said, would grow by 2.3% in 2011. It only grew by 0.8%, less than the US, Germany and France. This means the government is having to borrow even more money, not to create jobs and drive growth, but to pay for their own economic incompetence.
But it isn't just here that austerity isn't working. Look at Greece, subjected to catastrophic economic blood-letting with massive austerity cuts, and with an economy that shrank by 7% last year, leading to rioting in the streets.
In Italy the elected government has been replaced by unelected bankers, and the country has fallen back into recession. In these countries, as in the UK, instead of solving the crisis and 'dealing with the deficit', government policies are making matters worse.
A real alternative
We need an alternative that will work. We need investment to create jobs for the millions without work, not short-term returns for a wealthy few.
We desperately need new council houses for the two million people on the waiting lists. We need a banking system that works for people not profit.
Politics is all about choices – and there is always a choice and always an alternative. That’s what our political campaigning is all about – promoting the alternative to cuts in our members’ jobs and services which all the main parties declare are inevitable. We lobby MPs and ministers, and challenge candidates, to find another way.
The political campaign ballot in June is not about supporting political parties. It’s about asking members to agree to add another campaigning weapon to our armoury – standing or supporting candidates in elections in exceptional circumstances where it would help our campaigning work in a town or city where our members' jobs and services are threatened, and no other candidate will stick up for us. Recent by-elections have shown that such candidates can attract popular support and put pressure on politicians to change their ways.
When we strike on 10 May we will be showing that austerity isn't working, that we believe in an alternative, and that we are prepared to fight for it with every means at our disposal.