While the public sector workers might not be all out on the streets or on all out strike, it would be a big mistake to think that the government is out of the woods on the question of the wage cuts and the attacks on the public sector. 70,000 SIPTU workers joined the work to rule yesterday and the CPSU have escalated their action and are balloting for full strike action. The workers are digging in for what could be a long haul. At the same time however the employers are threatening to stop deductions of union dues and stopping facility time for union business.
Union members have to be prepared for these sorts of attacks from the bosses and it’s important that regular meetings take place to keep members informed and to monitor the actions of the management. It’s important that the employers know that any attacks will be countered and that the action will be escalated if there are any provocations.
The government are talking tough and refusing to consider a deal on the wage cuts if the unions call off the action. But this is a battle of living forces. For example, it is vital to build the maximum support for the action among the private sector workers. The bosses have attempted to try and drive a wedge between public and private sector workers. We’ve explained many times that there is no brick wall between the two. But the unions have to campaign and explain the class questions that unite workers.
ICTU must expose the fact that when the press and the government talk about “The Private Sector” they don’t mean ordinary workers, they get their instructions straight from the organ grinder. Who does the Fianna Fáil represent in this situation? They represent the same speculators and bosses that are trying to make us pay for the crisis in their system. Cowen and the FF leadership know that they will be crucified at the next election, so this is a no holds barred assault on the working class. It’s a similar position to the situation in Britain under Thatcherism. The ruling class need to try and assert their authority and “put their house in order”. However, that’s not the end of the matter; in fact the government is in a real crisis. They have no solutions. Indeed cutting wages and slashing services only serves to cut the market further and deepen the crisis.
There must be no let up on the pressure being applied to the government in the public sector. Likewise there must be no let up on the pressure being applied to the union leaderships. The campaign has to be backed up by the threat of escalation. Ultimately the only way to win this battle is on the basis of the full mobilisation of the trade union movement. The struggle must have a focus, that focus should be a 24 hour public sector general strike.