Strike Wave and Solidarity Growing in Scotland

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Both industrial action and strike solidarity movements continue to grow and develop in Scotland, Sara Bennett and Jonathon Shafi report.

In recent days, the strike wave has continued to expand across Scotland. It’s next important convergence point will be in Glasgow City centre on Friday 26 August.

Over 18 and 19 August there were numerous demonstrations of support for striking RMT workers, including rallies of around 150 each at Edinburgh Waverly and Glasgow Central stations. Workers from unions including the Unison, GMB, EIS, UCU and Unite Hospitality were present at the rallies. Speakers tended to focus on the need for unity between groups of workers. There was fairly little mention either of Labour’s stance – described as “neutral” by one RMT speaker – or the Scottish Government’s inaction during the cost-of-living crisis. Whilst a focus on Westminster is inevitable, particularly in the RMT dispute, opposition to the policies of devolved government will also be necessary.

The Edinburgh Festival couldn’t avert eyes from the growing reality of hardship that is afflicting city residents and workers. Cases of homelessness in Scotland continue to increase and at the end of March this year 8,635 children were living in temporary accommodation. This number is only set to worsen over the coming months with the growing cost-of-living crisis.

Edinburgh’s streets have also seen litter piling up as the GMB/Unite bin workers participate in an 11-day strike having rejected a paltry 3.5 percent pay offer as inflation hits 11.8 percent, although as Conter and various independent reports have revealed, there were attempts to undermine the strike by bringing agency workers. Numerous comedians and other acts joined picket lines and made speeches praising the strike action, whilst some artists organised litter pick-ups to undermine the impact of the bin strike.

At the RMT rally, a member of Unite spoke, holding both a Unite and Pride flag. He stated that 30 years ago it would have been practically unheard of for those two flags to come together, but now the attacks from the Tory government were driving groups together. He then called upon the different campaigns that had come to the rally to bring their banners to the front for everyone to see. Amongst them were Living Rent, Anti-Raids Edinburgh and climate activists.

Coming days and weeks will see a proliferation of new industrial actions, including by NUJ, GMB, CWU and Unite unions:

On Monday 22 August, the first meeting of Glasgow Strike Solidarity took place and heard reports from a number of disputes and developed plans for picket line solidarity and growing public support for workers in dispute. You can follow the organisation here.

With many other groups of workers either balloting or looking likely to ballot over action, there is a growing sense of a window opening. The mood is changing, with the public increasingly in support of the strikes and there is a growing, albeit uneven, class consciousness, an increasing awareness of ‘us v them’. The task for the left now is to build the confidence, spread the solidarity and to argue for more coordinated and sustained action. That way there may at long last be an opportunity to turn the decades of defeats into victory for our side.

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