LAST week’s “wildcat strike” appears to have ended in victory for Gary Lineker, but its impact could be long-lasting. It is a very high-profile example of how workplace solidarity is growing across this country.

Putting aside the issue itself – the curious situation in which political tweets which are critical of UK Government policy are now subject to censure whereas political tweets from many different BBC presenters are not – the response to what, in its simplest form is a workplace dispute, tells us much about how collective action can redress the imbalance of power between employers and workers.

Of course, the nature of this particular dispute is unusual. Gary Lineker is a contractor not an employee and extremely well paid. Contracted workers, of whom there are hundreds of thousands in industries such as construction, energy and finance , do not benefit from many employment protections under law and they certainly lack the power and profile of highly paid sports presenters.

Nevertheless, what we saw last week was the success of solidarity and collective action in practice. An employer takes the decision to enact disciplinary action against an individual. Colleagues, in response, collectivise. They organise a united response. They show solidarity in the face of injustice. They bring an organisation – in this case a behemoth institution like the BBC – to heel. These are the key foundations of our union movement. It’s what we do.

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Over the past year, Scotland and the UK have seen workers taking collective action (and winning) when governments and powerful institutions fail to act in their interests. The first national teacher strike in more than 40 years secured a 14.6% pay rise by January 2024.

Through taking strike action, or simply being prepared to take strike action if required, workers have secured better pay deals in health, local government, the fire service along with a range of companies in the private sector. Rail workers and postal workers are currently considering new employer offers which would never have come about without strike action.

It’s not always directly about pay. Members within our arts sector were faced with decimating cuts to culture until they organised into one united voice and staved off savage Scottish Government funding blows to Creative Scotland. These are underpaid workers, yes, but workers who want to fight for the future of their sector, ensuring they thrive not just survive.

As with Lineker and his BBC colleagues, the starting point is always solidarity between colleagues in the workplace in the working environment. But collectivism does not stop there.

Today, in Glasgow, the STUC will be organising a rally and demonstration in Buchanan Street at 12pm in support of striking PCS and UCU unions, campaigning to end the erosion of their terms and conditions within the civil service and higher education respectively. Universities and the UK Government are two of our most intransigent employers. You will see unions, particularly those who have already won their own campaigns, uniting behind those whose fight continues. Solidarity means no one gets left behind.

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Collectivism creates bonds, sometimes lifelong friendships, within workplaces, permeating the labour movement and across communities. There is nothing more uplifting for workers on a picket than to hear the supportive "beep beep" of cars as they pass, or the gift of a coffee from a sympathetic passer-by.

As the cost of living crisis has escalated, the sense of solidarity has continued to grow, standing in stark contrast to so many of the trends in society towards individualism and alienation. At a time when distrust of politicians and corporations is understandably high, workers in their hundreds of thousands are taking steps towards ownership of their own working lives.

The UK Government clearly knows this. It also knows that countries with high union membership and the ability to bargain collectively across industries are historically more prosperous and more equal. That is why it is legislating to further restrict our ability to organise and take strike action. We already have one of the most repressive sets of anti-trade union laws of any democratic nation.

Last week Gary Lineker received strong support from the National Union of Journalists, the BBC’s technical workers represented by BECTU and from players’ union the PFA. However, for any of these groups of workers to take industrial action over the issue would have been deemed illegal. The Government’s Minimum Service legislation will further restrict the right of workers in many key sectors of the economy to take collective action.

You will forgive me then for not holding out much hope for when the Chancellor steps up to the despatch box this afternoon. What the UK Government could be doing in today’s Budget is offering the pay justice and dignity that our workers so richly deserve. What we will get is the usual sound bites and con tricks, aiming to pull the wool over workers’ eyes.

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If the Chancellor dares to claim that an extension to their energy support scheme or increased funding for childcare is the most his Treasury can achieve, it will be a lie. With the disdain the UK Government has shown workers this past year, we cannot be content with scraps from the table repackaged as support. That’s why our movement doesn’t hang about for Westminster or Holyrood politicians to ride to the rescue.

That’s why we are fighting back in workplaces and communities across Scotland. We are also organising to ensure more workers are able to collectivise and take action together. As of today more than half of workers in Scotland are in non-unionised workplaces, meaning that they are not able to take industrial action if they need to. Union membership is growing and growing into "new" sectors such as hospitality where we have not previously been present. We are making progress, but we need to redouble our efforts to grow more quickly.

The events of last week might have involved a wealthy high-profile ex-striker, but its long-term effects do our movement – and the right to take strike action – no harm at all.

Roz Foyer is General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)