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At my first meeting on the national executive committee (NEC) of probation union Napo, I put forward an emergency motion to launch a campaign against the pay freeze (see socialistparty.org.uk). It called for:
It is absolutely crucial that public sector trade unions take bold action to fight the government over this clear and blatant attack.
In my speech supporting the motion, I made absolutely clear that we can have no illusions in the Tories backing down only from reasoning or pleas by the unions.
When Napo told the Tories privatising probation would be a disaster, they did not listen. Right now, the teaching unions warn that keeping schools open is a health risk, but the Tories are still not listening.
I am delighted to say there was no opposition. General Secretary Ian Lawrence spoke in favour, and it was passed unanimously.
One NEC member commented that there may not be large support for this campaign in wider society. I disagree.
Certainly, if this fightback gains momentum, the capitalist press will run an immense smear campaign against the trade unions, as they have already done against the 'militant' teaching unions.
But we have seen an outpouring of applause for health workers, showing plenty of ordinary people value those on the front line.
Let's remember, the vast majority of the public are underpaid, undervalued, exploited workers themselves.
As long as the unions clearly campaign for the money generated by the working class to be used for the benefit of our class, and not siphoned off to the rich, we will win over lots of different workers.
This motion was the easy part. Now this union, Unison, and the other public sector unions, must build a campaign of protests and win support for strike action.
Socialist Party members in public sector union Unison helped win backing for a similar motion to defeat the pay freeze at the union's local government service group executive.
To beat the pay freeze requires a membership that is active, organised, high in morale, and able and willing to fight. The responsibility for building that lies with the trade union leadership.
Failing these essential tasks will mean a serious challenge will not emerge, and the capitalist class, through this government, will roll over the trade unions once again.
If Napo, the Trades Union Congress, and all public sector unions can rally and organise their membership around breaking the pay freeze, they will win.
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Article dated 2 December 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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