Labour MPs back strikes as industrial action escalates


“After a summer of rail and postal worker strikes, civil servants have recently backed strike action, and ballots in health, fire and education sectors are under way.”

By Ben Folley, Labour Outlook

As the cost-of-living crisis bites and energy bills continue to rise, health unions today confirmed the escalation of the national wave of industrial action over pay.

After a summer of rail and postal worker strikes, civil servants have recently backed strike action, and ballots in health, fire and education sectors are under way.

Overnight, the Royal College of Nursing confirmed locations of pickets for its strike days on 15 and 20 December, and UNISON and GMB confirmed that ambulance workers had also voted to take strike action over real terms pay cuts. 

This was the backdrop to a new round of strikes taking place in the postal sector and sixth form and higher education. 

Postal workers in the CWU walked out for an eleventh day of strike action over an imposed 2% pay offer whilst NEU members in sixth form A-level colleges began a day of strike action. 

But centre-stage was the third day of the UCU University and College Union’s strike action over pay, pensions and precarious contracts. 

UCU called a national strike rally outside Kings Cross Station in central London, which was not only addressed by the union’s General Secretary Jo Grady, but brought in the leaders of the RMT and CWU unions who had driven strike action through the Summer, plus Christina McAnea who had overnight announced UNISON members in the health sector would strike, and Kevin Courtney of the NEU union who are part way through a national teachers ballot. 

Labour MPs declared their support for action over pay.

In Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak attacked Labour MPs who showed solidarity with trade unions at their picket lines. 

But backbench MP Andy McDonald, said the Prime Minister, ‘sits on a personal fortune he is refusing the reasonable demands of nurses, railway workers and many others who are forced to take industrial action just to make ends meet’ and asked, ‘Why doesn’t he give them the wage increase they need and fund it by making the rich pay the same rate on unearned income as workers have to pay for their hard graft?’

Expressing solidarity elsewhere, starting with UCU, Bell Ribeiro-Addy addressed the rally sending maximum solidarity with university & college staff who she said we re not just fighting for pay, pensions, job security, but for the future of their sector.

Jeremy Corbyn too addressed the rally, highlighting the coordination of multiple unions presence, saying, ‘this is what solidarity looks like’. 

Ian Byrne was also present at the rally, which he said was uplifting. 

Beth Winter tweeted, ‘This cost-of-living crisis is increasingly a confrontation between Conservatives and key workers over pay’, and said, ‘Conservatives are recklessly forcing a confrontation with nurses and paramedics.’ 

Rebecca Long-Bailey sent solidarity to UCU members fighting for a fair pay rise.

Mary Kelly Foy said she supported their fight to defend their pay and pensions and to tackle their gig-economy working conditions. 

On the eleventh day of the CWU action, Richard Burgon condemned pay cuts, job losses and worse terms and conditions in Royal Mail. 

Sam Tarry CWU members on their picket line in his constituency in Ilford.

Tahir Ali tweeted a photo from a CWU picket line.

Rebecca Long-Bailey expressed support for striking posties in Salford.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy contrasted Royal Mail’s record profits with their axe to jobs, pay and conditions.

Mary Kelly Foy said Royal Mail needed to stop the attacks on their workforce and put the Universal Service first.

On the NEU sixth form strike, Diane Abbott joined members at Hackney College with Kevin Courtney. 

The growing movement against the Government for a better economic deal that taxes the wealthy and redistributes to key worker trade unions fighting the cost-of-living crisis is just one of a number of themes that will be discussed at the Arise Festival conference on December 10th: “Solidarity – Struggle – Socialism.”

Featured image: UCU picket on November 30th 2022. Photo credit Labour Outlook/ Ben Folley

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