Momentum Builds for National Strike

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From late morning yesterday (Sat. 21st February) it was clear that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ National Demonstration was going to be huge. It was also clear that those marching were from all over the country and from all types of employment – both public and private sector. Along with a number of other members of Workers Solidarity Movement, I was at the top of O’Connell Street from late morning where we distributed thousands of copies of our leaflet which stated “Marching Is Not Enough - Strike Action Now”

“As soon as possible we need a unified day of strike action across the entire public sector to demand withdrawal of this pay cut.” the leaflet said. “One day of strike action is unlikely to be enough to force a change of government policy. So this needs to be followed up with an ongoing campaign of strike action. For instance this could consist of one day’s action across the public sector one week, followed by two days the following week, three days the week after.”
(see full text of leaflet at http://www.wsm.ie/story/5183)

Private and public sector workers unite
From our interaction with marchers as they made their way to Parnell Square for the start of the protest it was obvious that this was a view shared by large numbers of people. If further proof were needed that the economic crisis was caused by the greed of the wealthy in Irish society it had been provided by that morning’s front page headline in the ‘Irish Independent’ “PWC report shows Anglo gave 15 loans over €500m”.

Private sector workers who had recently lost their jobs or who had been put on short time working and public sector workers who face a cut in wages in the form of a ‘pension levy’ all made their way to Parnell Square and many reacted favourably to our banner which read “Marching is Not Enough. National Strike Now” and to our slogan “Organise Now for a National Strike. Make the rich pay for the crisis.”

When a couple of hundred strong group of Waterford Crystal workers marched up O’Connell Street behind a banner which stated ‘The workers united will never be defeated’ the point was being made that despite the best efforts of politicians and commentators the artificial divide between public and private sector workers was not going to be allowed to fester. Their chant was taken up by all those present and they received a huge ovation from watchers and passers by as they made their way up to lead the march.

Workers Solidarity Movement members maintained our presence at the top of O’Connell Street while the march passed us by. We distributed our leaflet to marchers and we involved marchers in the chant ‘Next Stop National Strike’. Again it was clear that the need for a national strike to make the government realise we are serious was obvious to a great number of people.

Don’t trust ICTU
When the entire march had passed us by, we joined in at the end and made our way to Merrion Square. Being at the end we missed all the speeches but having heard the lily-livered weak comments of David Begg and his ilk many times over the past couple of weeks this was probably a blessing.

The ICTU leadership cannot be trusted. They are only interested in getting us back into so-called ‘social partnership’. However the momentum is now behind the drive for a National Strike. Members of the Civil and Public Service Union (CPSU) will show the way on Thursday next. Bus workers will be next to take up the flag with the NBRU set for a one-day stoppage on Saturday and SIPTU busworkers set to take all-out ongoing strike action from 1st March.

Meanwhile teacher unions are currently balloting members for industrial action, and other public sector unions are coming under pressure from their members to do likewise. The organisation of a one-day national strike by all public sector workers is becoming inevitable. This strike will provide the platform for organising a strike across the entire private and public sector which will build a sense of solidarity and partnership beweeen all workers and will show the politicians that we are not willing to accept the pain caused by the greed and corruption of property developers and bankers.

Make the strike a reality
But while a momentum is definitely building towards a national strike, it will only become a reality if every one of us in our own unions take up the call. If your union is one of those already balloting, make sure you do everything you can to encourage your friends and workmates to deliver a resounding Yes. If your union has not yet announced a ballot, get together with your fellow trade unionists and demand a special emergency meeting of your branch. At that meeting put down a motion demanding that your union hold a ballot for industrial action and join with other trade unions in opposition to the government attacks on our living standards.

Getting the ballot passed will only be step one. After that we need to keep the pressure on our union leaderships to actually call strike action. We also need to discuss and work out a strategy to win. A one day strike won’t make the government back down but it will be step one in letting them know we’re serious. We need to work out a strategy of industrial action which is designed not alone to register a protest but to win – to make the government back down and to make the rich pay for the crisis.

The momentum is with us. Let’s keep it going.

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