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N30 - Public Sector Strikes

Last Wednesday, the UK saw the biggest public sector strike since 1926, in protest to Government cuts to public sector pensions. Not everyone who went on strike, or supported the strikes and the march and rally that happened in most cities on the day, works for the public sector and there's far more to be protesting than pensions, but it's the cause that involves the biggest number of people who can make the loudest noise.

I was out with other Socialist Party members on picket lines from 6:45am, to support the strikers, though obviously I'm a student and part time private sector worker. I went to a police staff line, housing benefits, civic centre and some uni buildings. I was surprised at first by how many people crossed the picket lines, I really didn't think people did that. Then it kind of occurred to me that maybe people today don't think like that, maybe it's not the huge taboo it used to be and is, to me.

I did wonder what the right thing to do would be, if you didn't want to strike, didn't agree with the strikes and couldn't just take the day off, what should you do. I still don't think I'd cross a picket line. Be hours early, be late, do anything you want to do but does it really not cause any kind of disquiet, just to stroll past your own colleagues while they're demonstrating (losing a day's pay) for something that could benefit you? Or, if the message of the strikes and other demo's finally sink in and public sector cuts are stopped, will those people refuse the benefits? Give back their increased pensions? I did feel sorry for those who clearly didn't want to offend anybody, but weren't Union members and obviously had no idea they were doing anything wrong, but that's a hell of an indictment of our time.

That said, the support throughout the day was overwhelming. I heard two people express disapproval (swearing at strikers, which is obviously lovely), and saw three thousand people join the afternoon march and rally. It was fantastic.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not particularly interested in the pensions of many public sector workers, they have a better deal than many hundreds of thousands of those in the private sector. I have a few relatives and family friends who are teachers or work for schools and to be honest their attitude can be quite irritating. I recently overheard a few of these talking about their work and saying things like "It's not like other jobs, you have to go in you're needed, you can't just not show up." ...Like a job, then. XD BUT, that's not the point. When you get a job you have an agreed salary, some of them include pension schemes, some don't, those that do, they are PART of that salary and no Government has the right to suddenly decide people need to pay more, for longer, to get less in the end. The solution is not to push the public sector down to the rate of the lowest rung in the private sector, it's for a fair deal for all.

People say the money for that simply doesn't exist. The Prime Minister responded to the strike with an insulting dismissal, saying it didn't cause the disruption it was expected to and it will achieve nothing. That's the leader of our democratic country, saying that two and a half million people demonstrating their displeasure with our elected representatives decision, will achieve nothing. It comes as no surprise to learn Cameron doesn't give a flying toss about ordinary working people, but it did surprise even me to hear him say that. That he wouldn't realise the political implications of such a statement, does show incompetence even I didn't credit him with.

Meh, he can say what he wants, the figures speak for themselves. The rally in Coventry was extraordinary. Union reps gave speeches, along with two councilors, one Labour and our own single Socialist Councillor Dave Nellist. (For a bit of background on that, Dave was a Labour MP over twenty years ago, he was part of old Labour, left wing, socialist Labour, the workers party. He was expelled from the party when it became New Labour, a party as right wing and conservative as...well, Conservative. The three major parties are now virtually indistinguishable, politicians like Dave are just not MPs anymore.) The Labour guy was heckled, he reacted to this with "could the sectarians in the Socialist Party shut up, please." Which prompted quite a few people to heckle him more, as they were not SP members at all they were just ordinary people who know Labour are no better than Conservative. There weren't supposed to be any political speakers, but once that idiot got up, Dave did too and his was unsurprisingly, the best speech of the day. He finished with a quote from Shelley's, The Mask of Anarchy. "'Rise like Lions after slumber, In unvanquishable number - Shake your chains to earth like dew, Which in sleep had fallen on you - Ye are many - they are few.'"

Just as the rally finished, four fire trucks pulled up, making a lot of noise in a kind of salute ^_^. The Fire Fighters Union decided not to go on strike, they were having a Union dispute and didn't resolve it in time. It was a fantastic moment to have them show up anyway. See the thing is, it wasn't about causing disruption, it was about sending a message, and it definitely did. It's a shame that some ordinary workers don't see the good in it, but it's worth fighting through that. It's an unusual time, the cracks in the current system are more obvious than ever before. I will believe that the money to answer the demands of the strikes, to give people a fair deal, doesn't exist, when our leaders share our wage amounts, when tax loopholes to the rich are closed and money isn't taken away from vulnerable people and heaped on things like the royal wedding and the Olympics.

Awesome day. =)

(That's a Unison horn in my hand, given to me by a Unison member friend, it was so loud it hurt. XD When the rally was over I gave it to a guy for his four year old son - brave parent!)

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