Taken from SchNEWS, Issue 798, 25th November 2011
NOV 30: WE’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER
As UK Prepares for Biggest Strike in Generations….
Well, it’s been a long time coming… Wednesday 30th November will see the first mass strike in the UK for four decades. 17 unions, including the biggest ones Unite, UCU, Unison, various teaching unions and PCS, have balloted to strike on pension reform which will see an estimated 3 million off work and, hopefully, cause massive disruption. Demonstrations and pickets are planned across the country – see http://www.n30strike.org for a complete list. Amongst the strikers are some unlikely suspects: 18,000 Border Agency workers are expected to strike leaving the government having to employ sinister private security firm Serco to take over for a day. Even the National Union of Probation Officers voted to join the strike four-to-one.
The government wants public sector workers to forgo 3% of their salary as pension contributions, which equates to a pay cut. So far workers have had to accept a two year pay freeze during a time of high inflation (in other words a pay cut), if they haven’t already been thrown out on their arse during the waves of mass redundancies (a total pay cut). The government’s arguments are designed to play on long term disgruntlement among the private sector that they have to deal with, on the whole, a shockingly shit pensions scenario and the public sector have had it a bit better off. Rather than aiming to sort out the private pensions mess which leaves millions in poverty on retirement, the PM wants the country to believe the public sector pensions are ‘gold plated’, unfair and unsustainable. Actually, most public workers end up with less than £5000 a year pension. They’ve also been reformed already: through a mix of negotiated and underhand changes, public sector pensions have bee!
n reduced to the tune of 25p in each pound over the last few years.
While the ‘official’ pensions reason is a biggie, the day will be one of anti-austerity action on the whole. It was obvious a year and a half ago that austerity measures were going to cripple the public sector, but it’s only over the issue of pensions that unions have been able to come together in co- ordinated action. The government’s various cuts bills have been sector specific until now, and Tory anti-strike legislation forbids solidarity action – effectively making mass, cross-sector strikes illegal. This, combined with the timidity of the unions and their own stifling legal processes have delayed action until the shared pension cuts could become the focal point for general civil unrest.
Which is rich, considering unemployment is at a 17-year high thanks to government policy. They’re also attempting to rebrand it as a “take your child to work day” in an effort to avoid parents taking the day off to look after children turned away from closed schools. It’s not only the government who want to break the strike: One particularly bizarre measure is being taken by an academy school headteacher in London, who is bringing in ex-Army personnel, police dog handlers and CSI teams to teach classes next Wednesday.
The tactics for the day are to keep demonstrations and marches focused in local communities and for many dispersed actions as opposed to a mass gathering, but if you fancy hitting the road to get in on the action, the most fun place to be looks set to be London. Occupy have issued a call-out to congregate in the capital and ‘Shut down the city’ – the plans for which are to be confirmed…
In other union news, shining like a beacon of wildcat hope in the darkness, the Sparks electricians union showed how its done again this week by an unannounced occupation of the head office of construction firm Grattes Brothers on Wednesday (23rd). Continuing their protests against industry-wide collusion to cut pay and de-skill work, which has involved direct actions, walkouts and demonstrations, 150 Sparks have locked themselves in the Kings Cross premises.
Whether the country comes grinding to a halt or not, we’ll have to wait and see, but N30 has the potential to reinvigorate the anti-cuts movement and take it outside the Occupy camps. See ya on streets!