Yet all is not lost

Leaders of some of the largest trade unions have split the trade union movement today by capitulating to the Government, betraying not only their own members but also undermining the teachers’, civil servants’ and health service workers’ unions.

No matter how some try to dress it up, the Government has made no concessions on any of the key issues that brought 2 million workers out on strike on 30 November.

Public sector workers will still have to pay more and work longer for their pensions and yet some union leaders, led by Unison, have agreed to suspend action, and recommend acceptance to their members.

Even worse, by accepting the Government’s ultimatum, these unions have agreed to the exclusion of fellow unions from future negotiations.

Caving in reflects a disastrous misjudgment, which not only divides the trade union movement, but strengthens the government.

Yet all is not lost. The outline deals agreed to by some union general secretaries are not final deals. They must be approved by union executives and by union members.

Today reinforces the need for united grassroots organisation in our trade unions. Workers must find ways to take control of our own dispute. It is not enough to “lobby” our leaders to act in our interests. We must organise to make it impossible for them to lead us back down the hill, Duke of York style. We are not Barber and Prentis’s stage army. Unions that oppose the deal, and dissident branches within Unison and other unions whose leaders look like accepting it, should organise together now to discuss campaigning against the deal and organising further action.

In the coming months and years, our movement is facing a massive attack on living standards, public services and welfare. This is a brutal class war – forcing the costs of the economic crisis onto its victims. We need to resist and fight these attacks.

We must build and reinforce the confidence of trade union members to stand up and fight, and to reject these shoddy deals.

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