The militant face of trade union strikers was laid bare last night when a senior member of Unison denounced members who went to work during Wednesday’s walkout as ‘scabs’.
Downing Street denounced ‘intimidation’ by the biggest public service union after Jon Rogers, the branch secretary in Lambeth, South London, also denounced those who refused to strike as ‘immoral’, saying they ‘should be ashamed’.
In an email sent yesterday, Mr Rogers wrote: ‘What you did was immoral and unacceptable and you should be ashamed. Whatever reason you thought you had to let your colleagues down it was not a good reason,’ he writes.
‘Kickin’ ass for the working class’: Workers picket outside the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, yesterday. More than 2million public sector workers staged a nationwide strike over cuts to their pensions, disrupting services across the UK
‘It will (if you are a decent person) be difficult for you to look into the eyes of colleagues who gave up a day’s pay to defend our pensions, knowing that you were prepared to let them make that sacrifice for you.
‘It may be unpleasant to be called a ‘scab’ but it is more unpleasant for those of us who take strike action to know that there are a minority who
refuse to accept democratic decisions.
‘If you cross a picket line you are a scab. There is no other word for it and it is one of the worst things that can be done.’
Mr Rogers then urged members to ‘redeem’ themselves by going out if there are further strikes in the New Year. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘Unions talk about the right to go on strike, but people have the right to go to work as well. We don’t want to see intimidation of staff.’
Thousands of strikers march in Liverpool. Unison members who broke the strikes were condemned as ‘scabs’ by one branch secretary
A Unison spokesman said: ‘The email has been withdrawn. The branch secretary was acting independently. It was sent after a long, tiring day and he regrets it.’
The row derailed attempts by both ministers and union officials to try to tone down the rhetoric over strikes yesterday, as No 10 indicated that a deadline to resolve the crisis by December 31 would not be enforced.
Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi condemned the official’s remarks as ‘outrageous’.
‘No one, let alone those hard-working public servants who chose to go to work yesterday, should have to face these sort of vicious attacks from the trade union which is meant to represent their best interests,’ she said.
A spokesman for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, dismissed the comments as ‘intimidation. Baroness Warsi, Tory co-chairman, said they were ‘outrageous’
THE UNISON ‘SCABS’ EMAIL IN FULL
- From: XXXXX [mailto:XXXXX@unison.co.uk]
- Sent: 01 December 2011 03:02
- To: XXXXX
- Cc: XXXXX
- Subject: Thank you
Dear UNISON member,
I am writing, most importantly, to thank those who participated in the strike action on Wednesday 30 November, which was the largest strike action in many years in this country.
Even the BBC reports (based upon reports from employers) demonstrated that there was widespread disruption across the country on the strike day. As the true picture emerges over the next couple of days we shall see that this strike had an unprecedented impact.
Our public schoolboy Prime Minister tried to say our strike had no impact but wasslapped down by UNISON. Support for the action was not only strong in local government, but also in the National Health Service, where there had not been national industrial action for thirty years.
I am convinced that the strike action in XXXX was the best supported and most effective action in more than 20 years. We had larger picket lines, at more locations, and fewer strike breakers across the workforce as a whole than I have ever known. A full report will be made to the Branch Committee on 13 December.
XXXX College was closed to students, as were the very great majority of schools in the borough. None of the libraries opened and for the first time XXXX was closed and a handful of sorry strike-breakers were directed elsewhere.
Those who struck on Wednesday 30 November can hold our heads high, having rightly taken difficult action in the wider interest to protect our pension scheme. Our General Secretary made precisely this point in his speech today in Birmingham.
Those who picketed, rallied and demonstrated can not only hold our heads high but should be permitted some time to put our feet up!
Everyone who is part of the large majority of our membership who participated in the strike action can feel proud that we did what was right to confront an utterly unjustified attack upon our standard of living now and in retirement. Our action and our sacrifice defended all local government workers.
The ball is now firmly in the court of the Government. If they make a genuinely serious offer (as opposed to a purely cosmetic non-offer for PR purposes) then I have no doubt that there will be serious negotiations.
If, however (as I expect), this Cabinet of millionaires continues to pursue its attack on our pension scheme then we shall need now to prepare for further, longer strike action early in the New Year. It won’t be easy but it may well be necessary and we all need to be prepared.
To the small minority of UNISON members who refused to respect the democratic decision to strike, and went in to work, I say two things.
First, you were wrong. What you did was immoral and unacceptable and you should be ashamed. Whatever reason you thought you had to let your colleagues down it was not a good reason. It will (if you are a decent person) be difficult for you to look into the eyes of colleagues who gave up a day’s pay to defend our pensions, knowing that you were prepared to let them make that sacrifice for you.
It may be unpleasant to be called a “scab” but it is more unpleasant for those of us who take strike action to know that there are a minority who refuse to accept democratic decisions. If you cross a picket line you are a scab. There is no other word for it and it is one of the worst things that can be done.
Secondly, there is still hope for you. Should further strike action be necessary (as I fear and expect) then you will have an opportunity to redeem yourself by taking the right decision next time. Please think carefully about this and never again make the mistake of crossing a picket line.
However, the most important message which I wish to convey in this email is one of thanks to the large majority who stood by our trade union on Wednesday 30 November and who made the necessary sacrifice in the legitimate cause of defending our affordable and reasonable pensions.
To the great majority of our members who took strike action in defence of our pensions I can only say that I am proud to represent you as your Branch Secretary and that I will do all that I can, in that role and as a member of our National Executive, to ensure that UNISON does all that we can to defend the pensions that were fought for by previous generations.
Those of us who took strike action on Wednesday 30 November can know that we kept faith with future generations. We may also find that we have participated in the action which has the possibility to change our country for the better.
[Source: Sky News]