How do you sum up the last month or so? It’s been crazy to say the least! Where to start?
After over 39 years in my job, I decided to take retirement, 8 months short of my retirement date. This was not an overnight decision, but one that I had been thinking about for a while. I’ll be a free man come October. Obviously going early means that, instead of 8 months’ wages, I get 8 months’ pension, which is at a reduced rate (for life) because I took it early, but I can honestly say that I value my sanity above financial matters. And I think I’ll be OK.
That, in effect, made the 2013 PCS Conference in Brighton, my last, as least as a full member of that union. Life is a struggle these days, and whilst Trade Unions exist to protect their members, here in the UK, they are hidebound by the most anti-worker legislation in the Western World. Ultimately, if the employer is just not prepared to listen to the concerns of the people who negotiate for us, then we have a number of weapons, which of course we try to deploy – but the ultimate one, underpinning all others, is to withdraw our labour, i.e., strike.
We have to get through so many laws designed to prevent us from doing so, including notifying the employer of what we are going to do in advance. I’ve no great principle about staying within the law, just a practical thing that it would take a movement much larger than PCS on its own to be able to defy these laws in such a scale that they became unenforceable. But sadly, the leadership of the rest of the trade union movement, seems (with a small number of honourable exceptions) to want to sit back and pray that Labour gets elected in 2015. Do these people remember Tony Blair’s government? He was no friend of the workers, neither was Brown, and neither is Miliband. Meanwhile, at the workplace, people are having their standards of living cut, their conditions of employment whittled away, all in the name of the huge debt incurred from bailing out the bankers.
At the same time, the Government carries on with its attacks on the poor, blaming the unemployed for unemployment, the sick for malingering, all the time driving down the wages of those in work, and leaving us to blame each other. And of course, who better to blame than the immigrant.
The Woolwich Murder
While away at the PCS Conference, news came through of an “incident” in Woolwich. It turned out to be a gruesome murder of an off-duty soldier, in the name of Islam. Now I hold no brief for radical Islamists (by which I mean political Islam), but in real life I know very few. I work with a number of people who are Muslims, but are not militantly so. They were as horrified by the events of Woolwich as all of us! But of course, for right wing neo-nazis like the EDL and BNP it was a propaganda gift. Behind their crocodile tears, they must have been clenching their fists with delight. The consequent attacks on individuals and mosques is clearly far deeper than expressing disgust at a few individuals who hide behind religion to justify their outrageous crimes – it’s puts them equally beneath contempt as the individuals responsible for killing Lee Rigby.
PCS Rolling Strikes and the aims of Fascism
And so on to 5th June, the day that DWP and HMRC in London, South East and Midlands took their turn in the PCS Rolling Strike program. We had four pickets at my office. There was me, of course. White, male, atheist. There were three others. All women, one Black Christian, one Sikh and one Muslim. What we had in common is a desire to defend our working conditions. And maybe try to build a better society, for the many, not the stinking rich. BUT – and this is the point – fascist groups aren’t just formed spontaneously by people who don’t like people of a different colour or religion. The people behind them know exactly what they are doing. The whole aim of fascism (and it’s not another word for authoritarian or even “nasty”) is to split the mass of people away from each other. Racism and religious intolerance are just a tool for their ultimate aim of ruling over a subservient people who do not have the power to stand up for themselves.
You know why they won’t succeed? Because of the camaraderie on my picket line, that’s why. A few far-right nutters and a few far-right religious bigots aren’t going to stop the rest of us from defending lives from attack by this government. We know what side our bread is buttered!
While all this has been going on, I’ve completed my 59th year on the planet. What’s more, I’ve been getting into Karaoke in a big way. It’s great being with Collibosher and getting to play bass in a group in front of appreciative crowds, but it’s also nice to get the mic in my hand belt out a few songs myself. Which reminds me, I need to get ready to go out – it’s karaoke night tonight at my local!