The decision to name 28 March as a date for a joint pension strike breaks the stalemate that followed the government’s “heads of agreement” deal.
Workers have been hungry for more action ever since last year’s magnificent 30 November strike.
But the deal—which the government aggressively promoted on 19 December—threw a spanner in the works.
The deal offers little or nothing.
Workers will still have to work longer and pay more for their pensions while receiving less.
But it still made some union leaders blink first.
Unison is the largest union involved in the dispute, organising workers in local government and health.
It has signed up to the deal, as has the GMB.
But many other unions have rejected it.
These include: civil service workers in PCS; government department workers and health workers in Unite; teachers in NUT, NASUWT, EIS, Ucac and Into; UCU lecturers in the newer universities.
Now that PCS, NUT and UCU have put forward 28 March as a strike date, there is a good chance that other unions will also go for action on that day.
Many public sector workplaces will have several unions on site. Those who are striking need to make sure there is a picket line.
They also need to win over workers who aren’t striking into respecting those picket lines. The 30 November strike brought everyone out together, and there is every chance of tapping into that spirit of solidarity.
Unite has three sectors involved in the pensions dispute: health, local government and government departments such as the Ministry of Defence.
All three sector committees decided to reject the deal. Health workers will get a consultative ballot on the deal with a recommendation to reject. Unite’s civil service workers are set to discuss their next steps with the PCS.
University lecturers in UCU are involved in two different pensions schemes—USS for those in older universities and TPS for newer ones.
A delegate conference representing the USS scheme voted against strikes for now.
But UCU members in the TPS scheme remain committed to walking out on 28 March.
Among the teaching unions, Scotland’s EIS, Wales’s Ucac and Northern Ireland’s Into could all join a 28 March strike.
The ATL has accepted the government’s deal, and the headteachers’ NAHT is surveying its members.
The NASUWT rejects the deal, but has not indicated whether it is considering further strikes.
And one union that wasn’t involved in 30 November might now enter the field.
Talks over firefighters’ pensions have broken down, and the FBU’s executive has called for “a rapid move to prepare a strike ballot”. No dates have yet been set.
A rough calculation suggests that 28 March could see around 750,000 public sector workers on strike. This is about the same number that struck on 30 June.
It would send a strong signal to the government that workers were not willing to accept its agenda of cuts and austerity without a fight.
And it would send a signal to other workers that striking against the Tories is very much on the agenda.
A number of trade unions have called a protest outside the High Court in London over its rejection of a judicial review into pension calculations.
The demonstration will coincide with the unions’ return to court to appeal the decision.
The FBU, NASUWT, PCS, POA, Unison, Unite and CWU unions want to challenge government plans to switch from the RPI rate of inflation to the usually lower CPI rate.
The court rejected the call for a review in December.
Join the protest—Monday
20 February, 8.30-10am, Royal Courts of Justice, London, WC2A 2LL