After weeks of vacillation the TUC has finally agreed NOT to call a national demo against the cuts this year.
PCS president Janice Godrich attended the TUC general council on 20 July and, along with other left union leaders, argued strongly for the TUC to call a national demo on 23 October, the Saturday after the Con Dem government’s spending review is publicised. This spending review will contain the details of the massive cuts being planned in the public sector across most of the departments. When these figures are seen in the harsh light of day it will cause uproar amongst ordinary trade union members.
PCS also has a resolution down for September’s TUC conference, calling for the demo on 23 October.
At the general council, TUC secretary Brendan Barber argued that 23 October would not give enough time for the unions to organise their members. But the real reasons against resisting the cuts were blurted out by a number of right wingers. They said that the strategy should be to "minimise the cuts", in other words accept them and throw yourself on the mercy of the employers.
The unions that supported the PCS call for a demo included the NUT and the CWU.
But Unite and Unison (the ’big two’) opposed the idea. One of the Unison reps was reported as saying that: "the activists might be gagging for a demo but the members aren’t".
This cynical comment was answered by Janice who said it was an insult to the thousands of hard working activists who keep the unions going throughout the year.
Barber counterposed to the national demo the idea of an open meeting in London on 20 October, with a lobby of parliament on the same day. This to be followed up with regional demos organised by the regional TUCs.
The PCS and other left unions will now discuss the idea of organising their own national demo if the TUC still refuses to do it.
Without a national demo and with just local action, it will be difficult to build an effective resistance to the cuts. The government is acting on a national level, so the unions have to respond on a national level.
The National Shop Stewards Network will now go ahead with organising a national lobby of the TUC conference in Manchester, demanding that the TUC does indeed get up off its knees and organise a campaign to defend the public sector with a national demo as a prelude to coordinated strike action.