By Jess Williams
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham hailed a ‘top-notch’ victory for 1,200 unionised Rolls-Royce employees in Goodwood, West Sussex. Workers scored a 10% pay offer along with a £2k bonus. This is their biggest union victory since the site opened. This followed threats of strike action in the wake of an unprecedented wave of national industrial unrest unseen in decades.
Terrified of the prospect of a strike by workers, emboldened by nationwide strike action and the solidarity enjoyed by striking workers, Rolls-Royce buckled and opted out of open conflict – for now. The scale of the pay victory exemplifies the importance of increased union activity for all workers in Britain, underpaid and undervalued.
The Guardian estimates that 417,000 days of work were lost to strike action last October alone, the highest since November 2011 with just under 1m days lost over strike action. Trade union statistics indicate that we may see over 1m days lost due to strike action, the highest number since July 1989, late in Thatcher’s long war against the trade union movement.
The heroic victory of Rolls-Royce workers demonstrates the importance of workers exercising their collective power – the power to withdraw one’s labour and threaten profit margins – as a habit rather than as a last resort. Power unexercised is fictional power. Only when trade union activity rises can workers secure better pay and conditions across the country, especially when strike action originates in sectors of strategic importance such as transport and communications.
Such an increase in union activity weakens the class enemy and undermines their ability to strike back against organised workers. This increase in union activity indicates a return to a more vigorous and bitter terrain of class warfare in the country. We must not mourn this development but rejoice, our class is finally remembering how to stand on its own two feet and fight back against the erosion of our living conditions by the capitalist class. This is how we end the cost of living crisis.