The announcement by Patricia McKeown, the regional secretary of Unison public sector union, that notice of the intention to ballot their members for strike action has been served to the health and education boards should be welcomed by all public sector workers across the North.
The statement by Ms McKeown where she said, “It has never been more necessary for Unison members in health, social services and education to stand together to fight for our jobs and services and to force employers to listen” can only be viewed as a positive start against these savage cuts that are only beginning.
Public sector workers have already suffered compulsory redundancies in education that have already reached new levels, whereas 2,000 vacant posts in health across all departments have been wiped out from April 1, with worse yet to come.
On top of this, health workers are now facing at least 6,000 more job cuts while education board cuts exceeding 25 per cent of the general schools budget is already having devastating consequences for cleaning, transport, meals and crossing patrol services in schools. Ms McKeown is correct that only when workers stand together can we save our jobs and services, but this cannot be achieved by one union alone. Only when all union members with local communities stand collectively as one organised force opposed to all cuts can they be defeated.
The trade union movement is ideally placed to mobilise this kind of organised mass workers’ action, as was clearly illustrated on March 26 when the trade unions brought out hundreds of thousands of workers and local people on to the streets with very little effort across the North of Ireland and UK in protest to the cuts.
The Stop the Cuts Campaign (SCC) is now calling on the trade union movement to co-ordinate and ballot their members across all trade unions in the public and private sector for mass action with the support of local communities building for an immediate all-out one day of strike action.
Socialist Party and West Belfast SCC Organiser