This is a guest post by Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of The Public and Commercial Services Union
On 30 June, PCS held the best supported strike in our history. It wasn’t just well supported by our members, but by UK Uncut activists who organised ‘Big Society breakfasts’ for people on picket lines. That strike, the marches and rallies, and the public support gave people confidence.
The 30 November strike this Wednesday will be even bigger. In June we were striking alongside three education unions, this week it will be alongside nearly thirty unions: 3 million of us striking together. The issue that has unified us is an unjustified attack on our pensions which, as every independent audit has shown, are entirely affordable and sustainable. The government is telling us we must work longer and pay more to get a smaller pension.
The centrepiece of the government’s attack is a 3% tax on all public sector workers. Not a single penny of this will go into our pensions – it goes straight into the Treasury to pay for the deficit.
Public opinion is with us (61% to 36% according to the BBC) because there is a widespread feeling that we are paying for a crisis we played no part in causing. It is this sense of injustice that inspired UK Uncut – asking why ordinary workers pay their taxes, yet a super-rich elite avoids them.
The question is not whether we have a deficit, but who pays? Rather than tackle corporate tax avoidance, this government has announced a further £25bn in tax breaks to big business, while at the same time slashing the welfare budget by over £20bn. It is now introducing workfare – forcing the unemployed to work up to 30 hours a week just to get meagre benefits. Welfare claimants are organising to resist.
The Occupy actions across the UK are a further response to an economic system that has opened up huge inequalities, crashed the economy and is now demanding the rest of us pay. Students and young people are bearing the brunt: no jobs, extortionate fees and massive cuts to youth services. This period has also seen tax justice become a major campaigning issue, thanks to the inspirational direct action of UK Uncut, the largest student demonstrations in history, occupations breaking out all over the UK and the world, people on welfare and the disabled organising themselves to fight cuts – and Wednesday sees the largest strike action for a generation.
The challenge now is for us to work together and support each other to force this government to abandon the economic model that is devastating our communities. My union has supported each and every one of these campaigns. We need to build the solidarity … and look forward to UK Uncut’s ‘solidaritea’.