[pdf http://126.96.36.199/cpgb-ml/wp-content/mediadoncastercare_20141025.pdf 700 800]With the completion of their most recent three-week strike on 20 October, the Doncaster care workers have now notched up a total of 90 strike days – the longest in the history of the NHS.
It is high time that Britain’s union leaders stopped obsessing about trying to get Labour elected in 2015, recognised that the Doncaster workers are fighting on the front line now against the privatisation of the NHS, and started pulling out their members en masse in solidarity action – regardless of the existence of a plethora of anti-union laws installed by the Tories and [i]lovingly preserved by Labour[/i].
[b]Looting the NHS: Don’t Care UK[/b]
The 50-odd workers on strike, forcibly transplanted from the NHS to their current rogue employers Care UK, are now facing attempts by the company to impose severe wage cuts – contrary to the reassuring noises made at the time of their transfer into the private sector.
Health workers across the board will be all too familiar with this pattern – which did not begin with the Tories.
In fact, the stampede to cut local authority welfare bills by privatising care work has proceeded unchecked under both Tory and Labour governments for the past 20 years. Back in 1993, just 5 percent of publicly-funded social care given to people in their own homes was provided by the private sector; now the figure is 89 percent.
The former leader of Care UK was Lord Nash, currently Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools. Presumably the 30 years Nash spent working in the field of venture capital prepared him as well for looking after schools as it did for looking after the disabled (or, rather, for stoking the profitable ‘care’ industry).
Since being bought by vulture-fund outfit Bridgepoint in 2010, Care UK has paid no corporation tax. Despite the fact that 88 percent of its income is supplied by the tax payer, the company still finds it necessary to launder money through the Channel Islands.
And who provides the care homes where Care UK staff work? Why, Care UK’s sister company, Silver Sea Holdings (domiciled in Luxembourg), which builds them then rents them back to Care UK, all under the watchful eye of Bridgepoint.
If the Inland Revenue’s inspectors get hopelessly lost in this incestuous maze, so too do the interests of both care workers and service users.
By playing these tax-avoidance games, and by slashing wage bills to the bone, companies like Care UK are able to offer care packages to local authorities at much cheaper rates than the NHS ever could. Once the cuckoo has tossed all the other eggs out of the nest, however, and the NHS has been driven from the field, the privateers will be free to jack up prices to their heart’s content – whilst presiding over a constant deterioration of both care standards for vulnerable people and working conditions for hard-pressed care workers.
[b]Resisting the privateers[/b]
The striking care workers of Doncaster have found themselves at the forefront of resistance to this process. They deserve the active support of the whole workers’ movement – not just a few fraternal donations to the strike fund.
Their demands are modest indeed: a living wage of £7.65 an hour for the worst-paid workers and a pay rise for more experienced staff – as opposed to the pay cuts of up to 35 percent being imposed by the company, in tandem with the hiring of 100 new workers at £7 an hour. Yet the stand the strikers are taking puts them at the cutting edge of class struggle in Britain today.
They need and deserve strike action in support of their stand – union laws or no union laws. The Care UK strike is, after all, not the private concern of a few workers in Yorkshire. It is the tip of a giant iceberg – one small aspect of a nationwide fight that is desperately needed to defend public services, oppose privatisations, stop pay cuts and reverse pension rip-offs.
This struggle demands widespread, united action by British workers to defend our class interests – and we need leaders who are not afraid to mobilise for that end.
[b]Defy the anti-union laws[/b]
Whilst in south Korea and India workers are dying for the simple right to join a union, the grandees of the TUC continue to cower before the might of ‘the law’ – terrified of the damage to their lucrative careers and pension funds that would ensue if they were to endorse anything looking remotely like a sympathy strike.
But the unjust anti-trade union laws that are so effective in scaring our leaders into submission have been carefully designed to make all but the most ineffective forms of industrial action illegal. In essence, they tie the hands of workers in their attempts to defend themselves from the attacks of the bosses.
Such a useful advantage of their opponents will never be voluntarily given up by our rulers; the laws will only be overturned if we defy them en masse and make them unworkable. We must learn to take a leaf out of the ruling class’s book, which is never afraid to ignore a law or rule that gets in the way of action to defend its interests.
[b]Labour: the enemy within[/b]
Meanwhile, we must also learn to recognise and rid ourselves of the other handicap that holds back workers’ struggle in Britain – the continued control of our movement by leaders whose ultimate loyalty is to the system that oppresses us and the rulers who exploit us – ie, the affiliation of all our organs of struggle (unions, anti-cuts movement, anti-war movement, solidarity organisations, etc) to the imperialist Labour party.
The harsh truth is that the welfare state was not proof of the ‘pro-worker’ credentials of Labour or of an attempt by that party to build socialism. It was a temporary concession to British workers by a weakened post-WW2 capitalist ruling class, which was funded by imperialist superprofits and driven by the fear of the spread of Bolshevism.
If imperialism was happy to let Labour’s Atlee and Bevan take the credit as the supposed architects of the NHS in 1945, it would be just as happy to see Labour’s Miliband and Balls take charge of its final demolition 70 years later, now that capitalism is back in major crisis and the fear of revolution has temporarily receded.
It is time that our unions faced up to their responsibility to the working class, broke from the stultifying embrace of Labour and rediscovered their original role as organs of mass struggle of the proletariat.
[b]Victory to the Doncaster care workers!
Break the link with Labour![/b]