Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wide support for June 30th strike action

But Welsh Labour leaders refuse to support public sector strikes

750,000 workers will be taking action on Thursday to defend pensions and oppose the cuts. Millions of workers not yet taking action will be supporting those on strike and millions more working class people support the strike.

While New labour in London have come out in opposition to the June 30th strike by public sector workers, Welsh Labour is sitting on the fence, expressing “concern” about the government’s pension cuts but refusing to support the strike of 750,000 civil servants and teachers.

Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor tried to undermine the strike by calling for the unions concerned not to take action. Labour leader, Ed Miliband has joined in the chorus of media opposition to the strike. This is in stark contrast to the wide support for the action from working class and middle class people.

In an exchange in the Welsh Assembly last week Jane Hutt the Labour Minister for Business and Budget refused to support the strike despite being challenged to do so by Leanne Wood the Plaid left assembly member. She side-stepped the issue by indicating concern over cuts in pension but did not support the strike to defend them.

The Assembly’s record reads:

"Leanne Wood: Further to the point made earlier by Mick Antoniw, next week’s strike will have a major impact on the running of public services in Wales, including the running of this place. Ed Balls has come out clearly against the trade unions, advising workers not to strike next week. Can we have a statement from the Government indicating its position on this strike? Specifically, I would like to know whether the Government is going to stand up for Welsh public sector workers in their attempts to defend their pensions, or whether it intends to support Ed Balls’s view…

"Jane Hutt: I think that it is clear form my response to the Member for Pontypridd that we are concerned about the impact of the Government’s public sector pension proposals. Around 300,000 people work in the public sector in Wales—approximately 24 per cent of the workforce—and women are going to be hit particularly hard. It is quite clear that reforms of this kind should be negotiated with trade unions to ensure that employees are treated fairly and equitably with full protection for accrued rights."

No doubt Welsh Labour politicians will ask to speak at the rallies of thousands of workers on strike next Thursday, but will they actually support the strike? Trade unionists organising the rallies would be justified in asking for unequivocal statements from these politicians that they support the strike whose rallies they are speaking at. Sitting on the fence will simply not do to striking workers.

Apologists to Welsh Labour claim there is “clear red water” between Welsh Labour and New Labour. But this seems to amount to the fact that Welsh Labour has not actually publicly opposed the strike on June 30th while Ed Miliband and Ed Balls New Labour in Westminster have spoken out against the strike. It appears that that is the best we can hope for from Welsh Labour.

And as an interesting side issue the Socialist Workers Party in Wales appears to continue in its uncritical support for Labour. The latest issue of Socialist Worker reports that “Labour has joined in the criticism of the unions” without comment. But a prominent SWP member recently gushed praise on Jane Hutt, thanking her for “protecting the people of Wales from the worst cuts of the Con Dem government”. Jane Hutt, as Minister for Budget and Assembly Business, passed a budget cutting £1.9 billion from the Welsh NHS.

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