Reports on the 30 November public sector general strike from picket lines, rallies and demos around the country
main London demo | Camden | Ealing | Electricians | Euston Tower| Goldsmiths | Hackney | Haringey | Health and Safety Executive | Institute of Education | Lambeth | Lewisham | St Thomas | Southwark | Tooting | Tower Hamlets | UCLH Waltham Forest | Westminster | Whitehall
A huge number of strikers and supporters assembled for the London 30 November demo. Alex Kenny, an NUT executive member, told Socialist Worker, “It’s gone very well today. The government is going to see how strongly people feel about this.
“We’ll start making plans for further action—nothing’s ruled in or out. It’s not going to be just one day—there will be more action in the New Year.”
Owen is a teacher in the NASUWT union in Southwark. “All these ministers going on television telling lies is really disgusting,” he said. “We need to fight them.”
Tom Miller is an unemployed GMB member. He is also in the Labour Party, and is on the demonstration with Unions Together, the organisation linking the unions to Labour. He said, “I think the deal offered by the government is a sham.”
Asked about Ed Miliband’s response to the strike, Tom said, “I don’t think any Labour leader has ever supported a strike. But many Labour activists would have liked him to do that.
“But at least he’s said there haven’t been proper negotiations from the government.”
Activists from UK Uncut had a great reception as they handed out cups of tea—or “solidari-tea” as they call it.
But not everyone is so supportive. The Metropolitan Police are handing out leaflets warning people not to deviate from the demonstration route and informing them that a section 60 public order is in place.
Michael Sweetman is a student who came to support the demonstration. “The government is trying to discourage people from going into the public sector,” he said.
“It reflects an ideology that sees speculation as wealth creators and public service workers as parasites. The truth is the other way round.
“We should support everyone striking today, like the sparks whose demo is taking place today. It’s all the same fight.”
Eddie Saville from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists told Socialist Worker, “We’ve never been on strike before. But now we are out showing our anger. At all the different hospitals there were pickets and rallies on the gates. It’s fantastic—more than I ever imagined.”
Raj Ranvhaha is a member of the Society of Radiographers at Barts hospital. “You feel bad telling patients you’re going on strike—but they have been very supportive,” he said.
Adam Jenkins is a park ranger and Unite branch secretary at Bromley Council. “My department has lost a third of its workers, some of them have come along to support us today,” he said.
“These Tories want to go back to the Thatcher years. Then again, Labour is useless as well. We give Labour our money. It’s their life blood—they should be here supporting us today.”
At the end of the demonstration there was a huge rally. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the crowd it had been “one of the best days for the trade union movement for generations”.
“If we don't win this battle everything we've taken for granted for generations will be taken away from us,” he added. “If they don't back down we'll do it again next year—and we'll do it again until we win.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “2,000 shop stewards from the private sector send solidarity and support to your cause.
“My message to the government is a simple one: 'Go sling your hook.' Instead of attacking decent people, go attack the spivs and bankers.”
Mark Campbell of the UCU said, “The 99 percent were down on our knees but we will not go down again. Enough is enough. A line is drawn in the sand—we are out to defend our pensions and we will stay out until we win.”
Gary Watts of the Society of Radiographers said, “I have a dream. I have a dream that one day this government will treat public sector workers with decency.”
Vaughan West of the GMB added, “Our message to our members is: thank you for today, but prepare for tomorrow. This struggle may go on—but we will win.”
There’s been good support for the strikes in Camden, north London, reports Phoebe Watkins. Many buildings are shut with lively picket lines.
A battle bus is visiting all picket lines in the borough.
Unison and GMB members at Ealing council set up picket lines across staff entrances to the town hall. Some 95 percent of local schools are shut, as are all libraries except one.
Lydia Dalton is a Unison convenor at the council. “We’re being told to pay more for pensions to pay for the greed and recklessness of the bankers,” she told Socialist Worker. “This on top of massive job losses and the cap on pay announced yesterday.
“This strike is what we’ve been calling for—a general strike across the public sector. Next I’d like to see them call a general strike across the public and private sectors together. We need to be united when they’re trying to divide us.”
Victor Lubinski is a GMB steward and apprentice in the tree service. “I’ve only been a union member for three months,” he said. “And it was only yesterday I found out I could strike as an apprentice.
“But I thought, yeah, I support this. I’ve been working for a year now and I’ve started paying into my pension. I don’t want it to disappear when I'm old and grey.”
Workers at Ealing hospital also set up a picket line. Rachel Emerson is a nurse and chair of Ealing Hospital Unison. “We want to show we will fight to defend our NHS,” she said . “They’re cutting it bit by bit. We have to say enough is enough.”
Mary Lancaster, branch secretary of Ealing Unison, told Socialist Worker, “It’s a really big thing for us to have such united action. The people out today range from dinner ladies to chief officers. They’re saying we have to go out—we have to defend pensions.
“I would be surprised if this day is enough. We’re hoping there will be more action. But we’re also hoping we can force the government to talk seriously.”
Some 200 electricians gathered at the Balfour Beatty site at Blackfriars in central London this morning. The protest was part of their ongoing battle to stop building bosses slashing their pay and attacking their conditions.
Workers were delighted with the recent vote for strikes at Balfour Beatty, which saw some 81 percent back action.
Electricians marched, despite police opposition, to join Prospect, PCS and FDA union members picketing at the Health & Safety Authority. More than 100 London Occupy protesters came to show solidarity with public sector strikers and electricians.
They then marched once more—again, despite police opposition—to meet Unison members on a Southwark council picket line. Next they marched to St Thomas’ Hospital—and the flying protest is continuing.
Civil service workers in the PCS and FDA unions struck side-by-side for the first time today outside London’s Euston Tower, headquarters of the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) department. Strikers held a joint union banner saying, “Pensions: staff in HMRC will lose £156,731,324”.
Sundaram is an assistance officer at HMRC and PCS member. “The strike is solid and well supported,” he said. “The scale of the pensions robbery has really hit home. But it’s also a strike for pay and jobs in the civil service.
“Lots of people can see past the government’s attempts to blame the public sector for the deficit. There are lots of people who haven’t come in today who don’t usually strike.”
Terry is an FDA member at HMRC. It is the first time he has gone on strike. “The feeling is that enough is enough,” he said. “We’ve had pay freezes job cuts, attacks on our pensions.
“We’re scapegoats for the crisis, but the bankers’ bonuses carry on. If the government invested in us we could tackle the huge level of tax avoidance and evasion.”
One passer-by stopped to talk to the pickets. “I work in the private sector,” he told the strikers. “And I think you are absolutely right in what you are doing. The wealthy aren’t being taxed properly as it is.”
Goldsmiths university in south east London had about 300 people on six picket lines—students and staff. The college was shut down. A group of theatre students had been told to come in for rehearsals, but when they saw the picket line they wouldn’t cross it and went somewhere else.
We put up banners hanging from the building saying “strike”. There’s now up to 300 of us marching down Charing Cross to link up with the mobilisations at London School of Economics and King’s College London. On our way we blocked the Lewisham Way road for 10 minutes.
• It’s been brilliant. We had a successful picket line and organised a teach-out with Goldsmiths lecturers to discuss the eurozone crisis and the Occupy movement, as well as pensions and the Higher Education White Paper.
Students have a role to play in beating this government’s austerity programme, but I’ve never really seen the value of students acting alone. So it feels good to take action alongside workers. It gives it a lot more meaning and a lot more scope. I’m looking forward to marching with them this afternoon.
Koos Couvee, journalism student at Goldsmiths
• Picketing library workers were kettled this morning outside the CLR James library in Hackney, east London, after a local solidarity protest joined the picket.
Protesters tried to block the road with banners supporting the strike, but police pushed them back and surrounded them alongside the pickets.
Several protesters were arrested.
• Some 700 workers from Unison, PCS and the NUT assembled at Hackney town hall at 10.30am to mark the 30 November strike day.
Lorna Solomon, staff side chair at Homerton hospital, got a great reception when she told the meeting, “We didn't cause this crisis. We’re not going to pay for it. Everyone deserves a decent pension—and the money for it is in the pockets of the rich.”
Andy, a Unison member and park ranger in Hackney, was on the picket lines earlier in the day. “I’m really angry that the lump sum of my pension is being stolen to pay for the banker’s deficit,” he said. “The next step should be further, longer strike action next year.”
Sasha Simic and Jenny Leow
• Pickets covered several gates at Homerton hospital in Hackney. Bambi Fazakerely, a Unison union rep there, told Socialist Worker, “I feel like crying. It’s so amazing to see all my colleagues here—they got up at five in the morning to get to the picket line on time”.
Flora Cuen works for private company Medirest. She came to the picket line to show solidarity. “I’m here for the rights of those who come next and for my children,” she said.
Members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) brought a new, homemade banner to the picket line. One rep said, “The CSP hasn’t been on strike for over 30 years.
“It’s just not right what they want to do to our pensions. Our scheme has a two billion surplus—which would just go to help repay the national debt. It feels great today having the other unions out together.”
At the Homerton ambulance station the brazier was roaring and homemade placards and banners were displayed all over the building. Inside paramedics had paint pots out painting a fresh banner.
Kath Jennings, a paramedic there, told Socialist Worker, “The first shift stopped work at midnight. I wasn’t sure if they would but this will be a solid 24-hour strike.
“The person that does our tea club has bought enough food that you’d think we were going to be out forever!”
She explained that they are covering only “life and limb” cover. “The emergency calls are coming straight to the picket line and the picket line dispatches the job. We decide who goes where.”
There’s been a lively picket line at St Ann’s hospital in Haringey. George, a Unison member who works in procurement, told Socialist Worker, “I’m sick of the propaganda. Why should we work until 66 when the bankers get large pensions?”
Steve, a maintenance supervisor, said “I’ve paid into the pension scheme for 30 years, so it’s only right that I strike to defend it. If the government doesn’t give in we should have another strike.”
Mark, a substance misuse practitioner, agreed. “This is the start of larger and deeper cuts to come in the public sector. We need to keep on coming out until they change their minds.”
Tatiana and Vinetta are a mother and daughter from Latvia who both work as domestic assistants. Vinetta said, “We want a better future for ourselves and our children. This is my first time on strike and I’m hoping for a change for the better. Everybody has been very friendly.”
Tatiana added, “All I want is a normal pension. The government is very hard but we are ready for more strikes. We have to try.” The pickets received a lot of support from passing drivers who tooted their horns.
Meanwhile at Park View secondary school just up the road Unison and NUT members were picketing together. Suzanna, a special needs teacher said, “I’m very angry. I’ve been teaching for 25 years and now they want us to work longer and get less. We need more strike action and disruption to make the government listen.”
Jeannette has recently become the Unison rep organising support staff at the school. She said, “This won’t only affect our pensions, but also our children’s pensions. Why don’t the bankers give back the money they got from the government and their big bonuses—than we’ll do the maths again”.
Strikers are out at the Health and Safety Executive.
Sally Bates is a PCS member working there. She said, “I’m on strike for my family. My grandson wants to go to college but there’s no way his single dad can afford it now the fees have gone up.
“I wanted my pension to help out but now it looks unlikely.”
Sally has been here before—News International sacked her during the bitter Wapping dispute in the 1980s.
“The Tories and Lib Dems are liars,” she said. “I don’t think we should prop up the deficit caused by the bankers.”
Unison union members who aren’t on strike and students joined UCU members’ picket lines at the Institute of Education to show solidarity, reports Matthew Cookson. The action severely hit the university.
John Yandell, UCU branch president, said, “This is the biggest strike since 1926. In itself the strike won’t deliver victory. But it is an important step and a sign that the trade union movement is standing up to fight against this government.
“It is becoming more clear that there are two sides in society, especially after yesterday's autumn statement. It is up to the trade unions to defend the gains of the welfare state—and that's what this struggle is all about.”
Pickets knocked down skittles with the faces of government ministers on them in a “bowling for pensions” game.
Some 500 people rallied this afternoon in Windrush Square in Brixton, south London, reports Mandy Brown from Lambeth College.
There was an upbeat festival atmosphere with music and a free strikers’ breakfast of tea, coffee and croissants.
Lively and defiant speakers addressed the crowd from the GMB, Unison, NUT, PCS and UCU unions. There is overwhelming public support.
Groups of pickets gathered outside several council workplaces in Lambeth this morning. They included housing workers, rent collectors and finance officers.
Many were taken aback by how much support they had received already. Ian Fall, a GMB union convenor at Lambeth council, told Socialist Worker, “One opinion poll said we had 61 percent support from the public—but I think it must be higher.
“No public sector worker agrees with what the government is doing. All our friends and family support us too.”
Rekha Khurana is a housing worker and Unison union rep in Lambeth. She told Socialist Worker, “We went round everyone yesterday and there are hardly any that are going to scab today.
“A lot of people are very angry. But generally people are more upbeat than they’ve been in the past. People realise that this has to be done to save our pensions.”
Rosanna Singler from Lambeth Save Our Services visited one picket line to show her support. “This fight shows others they can stand up to the cuts,” she told Socialist Worker.
Meanwhile pickets at Lambeth College also said they’d had great support from passers-by. UCU branch secretary Mandy Brown told Socialist Worker, “People are going past and pulling their headphones out of their ears to say ‘good on you’.”
Twenty pickets from several unions were outside Sydenham School in Lewisham. They received support from passers-by.
Discussions took place about the future after the strike, and the alternatives to the economic arguments we hear in the media.
Workers at St Thomas’s hospital in London have been on the picket line since 6am.
“The support has been really good. There have been lots of buses honking their horns and people taking leaflets,” said one occupational therapist in the Unison union.
“The news yesterday just made it feel like the government doesn’t care about public services. It’s like they’ve found another way of telling us ‘we’re going to grind you down’.
“And it’s always the poorest who have to pay the most. This is like a tax, but a tax that only public sector workers are paying, through our pensions.
“If there isn’t significant change the unions may well have to call more action—with more unions supporting it so it gets bigger.”
Paul, a Unison member who works in the hospital’s finance dept, said, “Everyone who’s come through here has been very supportive.
“People have come up and said ‘well done, we support you’.
“If the government carries on the way they are going, we should just stand up and say ‘no more’. We’ve taken enough. It’s not just our pensions but our children’s future that’s at risk.”
Esther Simpson is a lab worker and Unite member. “I joined the public sector straight out of university when I was 21, because it was something I believed in. But it was also because I knew, even if I didn’t get a high wage, I’d still get a decent pension.
“Lots of people wouldn’t be working for the health service if it wasn’t for the pensions. To have that pulled out from under us is disgusting—and to know it’s going to pay off the bankers adds insult to injury.
“This is the first time we’ve been on strike. I’ve never known lab workers to be this angry. Working in the labs under Margaret Thatcher I remember we were scared, but we were never as angry as we are now.
“I’d be very surprised if the government backs down. I’m not sure what we should do—all this striking is very new to us. I remember being in Leeds during the miners’ strike and that was heart-breaking, we don’t want to end up like them. But I’m hoping we can carry on striking one day a month or one day a fortnight until they listen to us.”
Marie Marquis, an IT worker in Unison, said, “It’s been a good turnout. What was said in the House of Commons yesterday has made a lot more people come out!”
Eddyna Danso, an operating theatre practitioner, said, “We’re all committed to the NHS, to keeping it open and keeping it public, but what this government is doing is unfair.
“The government should talk to our unions instead of releasing soundbites through the press. They say they are attacking ‘the unions’, but what that means is attacking us workers in the health service.
“I’ve worked here for 37 years. When I started we signed a contract saying I would retire at 60.
“There are a lot of people who are really low paid, who are now going to end up having to apply for means-tested benefits. They’d got this job hoping they’d never have to be reliant on state benefits.”
Chris from Southwark, south London, took a bus tour round picket lines this morning
Pickets were setting up their banners outside Kings College Hospital pickets at 7.45am. Just round the corner at Camberwell Green a PCS member is handing out leaflets outside a jobcentre that’s been threatened with closure.
I reached Elephant & Castle at 8.05am where there’s a strikers assembly and canteen. The journey has taken half the usual journey time—there’s very few cars on the road and very few school students.
Next stop was the Deparment of Health offices to talk to pickets collecting signatures on a petition. And at 8.15 I met up with Unison and UCU members at the South Bank university. There’s a busy day ahead for everyone!
At least 80 people from Unison and Unite are picketing at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London. It is one of Britain’s main teaching hospitals. All the unions—the UCU, Unite and Unison—have been recruiting in the run-up to the strike.
Strikers from Central Foundation Girls School, Phoenix School and Connexions joined forces with supporters from three local GP surgeries this morning.
We held a protest on Bow Road, the busy A11 through East London. We received fantastic support from the public, buses, post vans, ambulances and private cars incessantly honked their approval.
At 9.45am about 50 of us took to the road and marched towards Whitechapel in the bus lane. We were joined by pickets from Queen Mary university as we passed them.
When we reached the Royal London Hospital we were greeted by a picket line of hospital workers and staff from other GP surgeries, many of whom had been protesting earlier on the busy A13.
It was fantastic to see so many workers coming together in defence of pensions and public services. There were teachers, support staff, health visitors, nurses, GPs, midwives, hospital workers, local government workers and many more.
We held an impromptu rally then marched en masse through the City, past RBS in Aldgate, chanting “Give us our money back!” and “Public sector cuts—no way! Make the greedy bankers pay.”
We then went on to the occupation at St Paul’s cathedral where our ranks swelled even further. We all surged up Fleet Street to join the huge crowds in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. We have forged stronger unity and greater confidence in east London today.
Jackie Applebee, Tower Hamlets GP
• We had picket lines at different schools across the Stepney area then assembled at a local churchyard for a rally. There were over 50 strikers there, from the Unison, NUT and NASUWT unions.
We marched through Stepney, past an ambulance station where the pickets waved and cheered at us. We walked on the road down to Mile End station and disrupted all the traffic!
The mood is brilliant. We got lots of solidarity and made a lot of noise on the tube coming to Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the main demonstration. Everyone feels like it’s been fantastic.”
Richard Garrett, teaching assistant and school steward for Unison
• We were on the picket line, the whole place was very quiet with hardly anyone going in. All the admin staff were out so that was shut down. The psychiatrists weren’t on strike because they are in the BMA, but every single one of them who passed gave us money.
We went down to Whitechapel, to the picket outside the London Free Hospital. A couple of hundred health workers from different hospitals in east London then marched. We stopped the traffic and walked through the City.
Rachel Eborall, east London mental health Unison branch
• Spirits are high among striking lecturers at Queen Mary University, in Tower Hamlets.
Strong picket lines showed unity between staff and students and turned some people away.
People talked about the importance of striking together and there was a mood for further action.
• The streets of Whitechapel, east London, were peppered with picket lines this morning. Lots of small offices dealing with housing, benefits and other public services had strikers outside them.
Unison members at Thames Reach housing association near Aldgate East set up a table with bunting and balloons to publicise their strike.
It is a voluntary sector organisation rather than public sector. But many of its workers transferred over from the public sector and are still in the Local Government Pension Scheme. Unison has encouraged workers who aren’t in the scheme to take the day off anyway and join the picket lines.
A few yards away on Commercial Road Unison pickets gathered outside an NHS primary care trust office. “People are angry at having to work longer and pay more,” one picket told Socialist Worker.
“And all that money’s just going to pay bonuses of the people who work over there,” he added, pointing to skyscrapers of Canary Wharf where many investment banks are based.
At a PCS office which deals with processing benefit claims, pickets were discussing Monday’s BBC poll showing 61 percent public support for the strikes. “It’s great, especially given how biased the media is,” one said.
There was a large joint picket line outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel. Workers from Unite, Unison and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) joined it. Patients holding a “Patients Support Strikers” banner came to support them.
Andrew Garforth is a physiotherapist who works at the hospital. “We work in a physically demanding job,” he told Socialist Worker. “We have to lift people up out of bed who aren’t able to move themselves.”
He said the proposed rise in retirement age was a big issue for physios. “Imagine a 68-year old physio trying to lift up a 22 stone injured rugby player!” he said.
Donna Payne, an official with the CSP, noted that 68 percent of physiotherapists get injured at some point in their working lives, and one in 16 have to leave the NHS as a result of injury.
She told Socialist Worker, “Most of our members are under 40, so increasing the retirement age from 60 to 68 is a big issue for them. People are very upset.”
Workers at University College London Hospital (UCLH) in central London were striking for the first time in over a decade today. Dozens of pickets from the Unison union had gathered outside the hospital entrance by 8am.
“At first I was scared and worried about not dealing with patients today,” said Pascal, a senior staff nurse. “But this is about everyone’s future.
“We can’t tolerate this any more. And we’ve had lots of support from the public. We work long hours but we don’t moan about it. There’s more action like this ahead, definitely.”
Nurses chanted “Hands off our pensions” outside the hospital. One retired woman passing the hospital said to Socialist Worker, “Yes I’m on side. Something needs to be done to stop them. They have my support.”
John Cryer, the Labour MP for Leyton & Wanstead, was up early supporting pickets at Walthamstow Low Hall bin depot. He told Socialist Worker that the attacks on pensions are some of “the most vindictive and ideologically motivated” he’d ever seen.
“George Osborne’s statement yesterday effectively announced a 4 percent pay cut for the whole public sector,” he added.
“Today’s strikes are a first step. It’s probably the biggest stoppage since 1926, but there’s a long way to go. I won’t be surprised if there are more strikes to come—possibly one or two days, possibly longer. We’ll have to wait and see.”
The NUT organised a picket line at Kelmscott school in Walthamstow. “It’s not just about pensions,” one striker told Socialist Worker. “It’s about defending public services.”
There were 15 on picket line at Waltham Forest college. Cars honked in support as they passed, while people riding bicycles rang their bells
Jo is a technician at the college and a first time striker. She says, “I couldn’t do my job at 68—I’m struggling at 47. I’m supporting my union as they support me.
“If we want to win we’ve got to keep telling the government we’re not happy. We’re the workers and we’re not getting our fair voice. We’re being penalised all the time.”
PCS members at a Department of Work and Pensions office also set up a picket line. One worker told Socialist Worker: “They haven’t put our money anywhere—they’ve spent it and now they’re saying were costing the taxpayer money!”
“We’ll have to pay in more and work for longer to get less. It’s totally unfair. Our wages are £15,000 not £30,000 a year. We’re not the ‘bowler hat brigade’ on mega wages—and we didn’t cause this crisis.”
• Drivers from nearby Leyton bus depot came up to join more than 100 people at a lunchtime rally outside Whipps Cross hospital's main gate. Drivers wanted to make it clear to hospital staff that as private sector workers they supported their public sector colleagues.
Strikers at the hospital included physiotherapists, occupational and speech therapists, radiographers and lab staff, as well as admin staff and nurses in Unison and Unite. As the morning went on up to 20 people joined the GMB ambulance workers' picket outside the ambulance station.
Over 30 health visitors, school nurses, chiropody and admin staff joined a picket of Leyton Green Clinic. They were joined by workers from Leyton bus depot.
The picket also celebrated the first anniversary of the clinic being saved by a union and community campaign.
• Sharon Stainsby is a Unison rep at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London. She spoke to Socialist Worker on the picket line in a personal capacity.
“The response in the Therapy department has been great,” she said. “I’ve recruited eight people to Unison in the last week.
“People are really angry. Now it’s pensions that the government is taking—but if we don’t fight, what will they go for next?”
Charlotte Monro, a Unison chair, said, “Whole departments are coming out. In Unison, many of us are striking in shifts so everyone can take part and still maintain emergency cover. Around 3,500 people work at Whipps. A lot of people support us who aren’t out. Everyone is angry.
“We need to organise with other unions like the RCN to make sure they come on board if we have to come out again. We need more sustainable action to keep up the momentum.”
There are 12 people on a picket line outside Whipps Cross ambulance station. Nobody in the station is working as normal today.
An ambulance worker in the GMB said, “If the government don't budge on this we'll have to harden our tactics. I don't think we should offer emergency cover next time.”
• The strike has reached the heart of key British institutions—including the houses of parliament and the royal family.
Groups of striking workers picketed outside Downing Street and the House of Commons today—and turned some MPs away. Pickets included House of Commons chefs and security officers for royal palaces.
Luana Avegliano, a PCS member, was on the picket line at Downing Street. She told Socialist Worker, “I work for the cabinet office, so Francis Maude is our minister. Yesterday I gave him a flyer and asked why he’s still peddling lies about our pensions being unaffordable.
“We already negotiated a deal in 2007. They’re just taking our money to pay for their friends—the banks, the multinational corporations and people like Philip Green.”
Several chefs were picketing at the House of Commons, including Nick and Richard, both GMB union members.
Nick told Socialist Worker, “Most of us have worked here over 25 years. There’s been a really good response—out of 80-odd chefs, there are only 15 working today, so MPs will get no food.
“I’ve worked here since February 1987 and been in the union all that time, but it’s the first time I’ve been out. It feels strange, but necessary—we’ve been made to bear the brunt of everyone else’s problems. If we need to, I’m sure we’ll come out again.
Richard pointed out that George Osborne’s autumn statement yesterday meant more pain for public sector workers. “We’ll be hit by another pay freeze as well now,” he said. “It’s just another kick in the teeth, on the eve of the strike.”
Terry, another GMB member on strike, has an MBE for services to parliament and charity work.
He told Socialist Worker, “It comes as a shock that it’s come to this. I’ve worked for the government for 40 years and now they’re coming for our pensions.
“We’re not only here for us—it’s for my kids, for the youth, for everyone.”
Kevin Smith is PCS branch secretary at Met police palaces branch. He told Socialist Worker, “I’m a security officer in parliament. We have about 280 members here, and about 95 percent of them have come out today.
“This means they’ve had to bus in loads of police to cover for us, at huge cost. I saw four busloads coming in—it’s gonna cost them a huge amount.
“Our branch isn’t hugely militant but people know the pensions thing is going to affect them. It’s our third strike and we’ve had great support.
“All the autumn statement did was infuriate people more. It’s another attack.
I hope enough people have come out to have a real impact and force the government to listen. We’re not going away!”
Emmet O’Brien is a group organiser for PCS Metropolitan Police group.
He told Socialist Worker, “We should tell the government to sod off! They’re being totally unfair o the man and woman on the street trying to earn their crust, while the banks have been let off.
“They want me to work seven more years. That’ll be seven more years of hardship—it’s like getting a prison sentence.”
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn joined the picket lines. He said, “I’m not going into parliament today. Instead, I’ll be going straight back to my constituency to visit picket lines.
“I find it disappointing that not enough Labour MPs seem to remember where the Labour Party comes from and who its basic core supporters are.
“I expect this to go on for some time. This is one occasion where we really are all in it together—against the government.”
Pickets of civil service workers lined the streets in Whitehall, central London, this morning.
Duncan is in the PCS union at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “Normally we struggle to recruit, but we’ve had 15 new members here in the past week,” he said.
“The momentum is up. The announcement by Osborne yesterday solidified the strike. Unless there’s a big government U-turn, there’s more of this to come. If they want a fight, they’ll get it.”
Prospect members were also on strike. Julie Franagan is an officer for the union. “There’s a brilliant turn out,” she said. “It’s lovely to see Prospect, the PCS and FDA all out together. It’s over 30 years since our members last struck, so it’s great to see what’s happening today.”
Matt O’Dwyer is branch chair of the PCS at the Department of Health in London. “Well over 80 percent of us are on strike here today,” he said. “There have been a lot of people who’ve scabbed before, but who aren’t coming in today.”
Matt thought there would be more action ahead. “This is a long, hard struggle,” he said. “It’ll take far more than one day to reverse these changes. People are really angry.”
Over 15,000 people joined the march through Birmingham, despite the council refusing to agree a route and the press announcing that there was no demo.
There were no police on the streets as union stewards cleared the roads as we snaked through the city, bringing it to a halt. The mood on the demo was electric with a fantastic response from passers-by.
Earlier in the day Unison members picketed the Tamebridge House transport engineering workshops for West Midlands fire service in Birmingham.
One striker said, “We are the only workshops across the whole of the West Midlands maintaining fire engines. We are on strike to protect our pensions and future generations. Millions on strike will send the government a strong message that together we can win.”
Some 55 council strikers joined picket lines at Lifford House and there was a very buoyant mood. Pickets sang, “I’d rather be a picket than a scab”. Lots of passing motorists honked in support including a Royal Mail van and most of the buses.
One scab made a complaint that the pickets were being intimidating—but when this was shared, those on the picket line continued to sing and chat. The only aggressive thing was the scab driving fast towards the picket line and the scale of the council cuts!
Striking council workers gathered at the Birmingham Perry Tree care centre this morning. One picket told Socialist Worker, “Our pay has been cut, there’s fewer than half the staff on shift and now they want to charge us to park outside our workplace.
“These cuts are devastating care for older people who have Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. We are predominantly women and our work is hard. I hope there is a massive protest in the city today and we shut it down. It’s about time Cameron, Clegg and Osborne get a taste of our power.”
All permanent staff are out at Birmingham Perry Barr bin depot. Strikers reported that bosses threatened casual workers yesterday, who had agreed to join the strike.
Quite a few crossed this morning. Bosses were on the gates today and around 40 strikers were picketing. Strikers tried to block bin trucks but bosses called police. One worker said, “I’ve worked here for 20 years but I work harder to work the same as I earned then.”
Another added, “I’m a driver. Bosses are telling us we use too much diesel—like I have any control over how much the truck uses. What they mean is they want us to work harder and faster.”
Pete Jackson and Nick Burke
We had a really big march—it’s at least twice the size of the last time and we had over 2,000 even then.
There were speakers from 16 unions at our rally. The radiographers had a banner on the march as did the Cambridge Labour Party. There were feeder marchers from the hospital and the local government offices.
Loads of students came from Cambridge University—and someone from their occupation spoke at the rally.
There were people from a local Turkish-Kurdish organisation and someone spoke from UAF about uniting against the EDL. People were chanting “We are the 99 percent”.
Three thousand joined a march and rally in Coventry. There were pickets across the city, especially in the city centre.
Around 50 strikers picketed at City Services where an attempted scab operation by management failed.
Ann McMillan Wood, a Unison steward at Derbyshire County Council Area Office, said, “We are on strike today to avoid poverty in old age. We are fighting for the young today who will suffer more than us.”
Lisa Derbyshire, the Unison branch secretary at North East Derbyshire Office, said, “We are here to fight for our pensions. The government have left us with no other choice. They want us to work more pay more and get less.”
Andy Freeman is a Unison regional organiser and was at Chesterfield Town Hall. “This is the biggest industrial action since I have been a trade unionist back in 1989,” he said. “I have never seen so much collaboration and co-operation between unions to fight for everyone.”
• There is a lively picket line at Derby University. Unison and UCU union members picketed along with members of the Socialist Worker Student Society.
Over a dozen students turned round, went home and didn’t cross the picket line. The university was really quiet suggesting hundreds more just stayed home.
• My school, like many others, was closed to students today.
On our picket line, we had teachers represented by the NUT, NASUWT and ATL. Teaching assistants in Unison were picketing too.
Our picket line was lively and received good support from passersby. We joined the march in the city centre, which was noisy and colourful.
It encompassed people from all over the city, in various roles across the public sector.
There was a sense that we were there not just for our pensions but also to protect the pension rights of future workers too.
After a short march through the town, strikers and supporters crowded into the market square. There were speeches and stalls including hot soup and entertainment from food co-operative Sound Bites and activists collective City Zen.
Stephanie King, Derby teacher
Harwich was very quiet this morning. No schools were open.
PCS members were out on picket lines at the Harwich Custom House. Post workers came to show solidarity. They explained that a manager had crossed their picket line and that they would never cross picket lines under any circumstances.
The mood was defiant. All the pickets are going to attend the march and rally in Colchester this afternoon.
• The main demo in Leicester today was over 6,000 strong. People said they’d never seen anything like it in the city before.
Gary Garner, Unison local government branch secretary, told Socialist Worker, “I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the turnout. We expected it to be big, but not 6,000. Our members were delighted by the public support.”
The indoor rally held at the end was massively over-capacity in a venue that seats 2,000. Trade unionists spoke from all the striking unions alongside pensions campaigners. There was music from Grace Petrie and the First of May Band.
There were over 100 picket lines during the day in the city. These included the PCS outside HMRC, where only 30 people out of 800 went in to work.
Some three quarters of city council staff were on strike. All city museums closed, and 103 out of 109 schools were shut. All three Leicester hospitals had picket lines. Doctors who weren’t striking took stickers to wear in solidarity.
• There are over a dozen pickets on many of the entrances to Glenfield hospital in Leicester. James, a mental health nurse at the hospital, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve seen cuts over the last six years—long before they started talking about recession.
“There’s been ward closures and bed losses, bed management problems, services being cut and several years of below inflation pay increases. I can’t see me working here until I’m 67. I’m striking for future generations of health care professionals.”
Kerry, a social care worker, added, “I’ve done 32 years here. It’s disgusting that they’re telling me that I have to pay more in to get less out. Making people work to an older age takes away the chance for younger people to get jobs.”
In nearby Loughborough there are picket lines at police headquarters, Charnwood council offices and the probation service. Pete, one of four pickets at the police headquarters, said, “I am not just here for pensions—they want to turn the clock back 50 years.”
The probation service has all but one office closed in Leicestershire. The council offices had about half a dozen pickets at each of its major entries.
Katie, a Unison steward, said, “This is part of the ideological war on the public sector. They are trying to play divide and rule between us and other workers.”
The most easterly town in Britain, Lowestoft, also saw its biggest ever demonstration today. Some 200 people rallied in town centre from unions including Unite, Napo, NUT and NASUWT.
All the town’s schools were shut down, so instead of picketing NUT members leafleted the high street. There were big picket lines at local government offices, however—and even picket line at the police station staffed by Napo members.
Thomas McGowan is a PCS member at the government’s Cefas marine biology lab. He told Socialist Worker, “We had a great picket line with 20 or 30 people. Most of the workers here are in Prospect, which doesn’t usually take this sort of action. That shows how angry people are.
“As well as the pay freeze there’s been a recruitment freeze, so people are really unhappy. We are losing people to the private sector. Someone leaves every week. So people felt empowered by coming out on strike. Finally there’s something we can do about all this.”
After the rally some 80 people attended a rally in the town hall. As well as talking about pensions, teachers raised the need to defend education, while NHS workers talked about privatisation. Some local health services are already being run by private companies.
The action is not going to end today. This government is determined to push millions of us into poverty in our old age. We aren’t going to accept cuts, redundancies and poor wages. We need more strikes in January—and union leaders should ballot private sector workers too.
Millions of British people hate this government of the rich. We need a society based on need not profit. So let’s continue to fight for it.
Mary Littlefield, Lowestoft NUT
Some 4,000 people marched through Norwich city centre. There were also marches and rallies in Great Yarmouth, Dereham and Kings Lynn.
Picket lines were strong across the region, including at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital.
On the Norwich march, University of East Anglia student Jack Brindelli called for need to come before greed. He got a huge round of applause. Chants on the march included “students and workers unite and fight”.
Around 20 people picketed at the Clifton campus of Nottingham Trent University this morning.
It lies on a main road into Nottingham and there was a constant barrage of tooting of support from passing motorists.
There is a major construction work on the campus at the moment and the building workers were really supportive. The majority sentiment was, “Hope you win. We all need to fight together”.
This was also the mood on the huge demonstration in Nottingham later in the morning. More than 8,000 marched through the city centre.
Pedestrians applauded and cheered. Paul Williams from the PCS spoke at the rally. He got a huge cheer when he echoed the headline of Socialist Worker and said we need to be “All out to win”.
Fiona Boyd from the UCU stressed that today was just the beginning and we need to go back and further organise and agitate.
Today had lifted the spirits all those who took part. It sent a clear signal to the Tories and the trade union leaders that we are determined to fight on until we win.
The strike is 90 percent solid in Sandwell in the West Midlands. Nearly every school is shut.
Some 300 pickets gathered outside Sandwell council house. Speakers received mass applause for calling on union leaders to name the next strike dates. There were cries of “all out!” and “Victory to the 99 percent!”
Tony Barnsley, Sandwell Unison (pc)
Over 300 people rallied and marched in Stafford town square.
Stoke-on-Trent’s “University Quarter” was the scene of the most exciting industrial action the area has seen for years today.
The campuses of Staffordshire University, Stoke Sixth-Form College and Stoke-on-Trent College were brought to a standstill.
Students joined lecturers, library staff and administrators on picket lines at Staffordshire University. Ray Berrenger, a library assistant and Unison member, said, “This is part of a general climate of people wanting to fight back and resist.”
Liz Binns, an administrator at the university said, “Higher education, much like social work, is predominantly staffed by women.
“I feel the government is coming after us first because they think we’re a soft target. We’re not, we’re very militant.”
She also rejected the government’s attempt to divide public and private sector workers, saying, “We’re all workers!”
UCU member and forensic science lecturer Andy Platt was picketing too. He laughed at the Tory suggestion that the strike would harm the economy. “After what the Tories have done to the economy, I think that speaks for itself,” he said.
Student Caroline Butterwick said, “It’s not fair normal people have to pay for the bankers’ mistakes”.
Strikers at Stoke Sixth Form College said they were getting lots of support too.
Steven Sims, an NUT member there, said, “We’re getting lots of support and cheers from the public. We haven’t managed to close the college down, but in terms of it functioning as a normal college—forget it, it ain’t happening today!”
He explained how for him the politics of the situation were as important as just the pensions. “Trident, tax cuts for the rich, wars abroad—where’s all that money coming from? It’s coming from our pension funds, and our public services!”
Jason Hill, secretary of the North Staffordshire trades council, told a crowd of well over 500 trade unionists that 30 November’s strikes represented “The biggest display of trade union solidarity I have seen in my 30 years as a trade unionist!”
He had visited pickets across the Stoke-on-Trent and the solidarity visits from other unions to pickets had been fantastic. “I’ve counted all the banners—and I’ve counted 16 unions who have come out in support of this day who are not even striking today.”
There was a real sense of solidarity on the demonstration. Unions like the FBU and CWU came out with their banners to show solidarity with today’s action.
The message was clear—public sector workers were not willing to have their pensions destroyed by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition.
Pete Rove from the PCS tackled the lie of “gold-plated” public sector pensions. He said, to huge cheers from the crowd, the people spinning this lie obviously had “no concept of reality whatsoever”.
Jason Hill ended by citing Tory chancellor George Osborne’s threat to sack 700,000 public sector employees by the end of this parliament. This was part of the government’s agenda of privatising public services and creaming off the profits to the rich.
He urged people to get involved with North Staffordshire Against the Cuts, adding, to applause, “We’ve got to fight this government and win. We’ve got to bring down the government!”
Telford council shut its main civic offices today “due to industrial action”, reports Leo Fisher. The support for the strike was the best supported in the memory of the branch officers.
Pickets were outside a number of key offices. In one incident, refuse workers for a private provider TWS joined Unison so that they could take legal strike action and refused to cross our picket lines.
After the pickets, we leafleted the public for an hour. There was an atmosphere of support for the strikers and anger at the government among the vast majority of the public today.
At the TUC rally at Cordingly Hall in Donnington, Telford, attended by around 400 local trade unionists, the lay officers and officials speaking were clear this action had to be just a start in our class fight to stop this governments attacks.
Earlier that day some 200 strikers picketed at a Ministry of Defence site in Donnington, reports Oliver Jones.
Around 30 students from Warwick University joined the demonstration in Coventry. Tony Souter reports 500 people at a rally in Warwick town centre.
There were between 1,000 and 2,000 people on the march and rally in Wolverhampton town centre today—our best march for years!
It was very lively with music provided by a Dhol band and free samosas dished out. There were picket lines at the civic centre, university, local further education college and schools.
One primary school had about 30 pickets, as did the university. A small local hospital had 14 pickets. There was an excellent mood for a fightback and a realisation that this was just the beginning.
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More than 700 people took to the streets of Barnsley today for a strike demonstration and rally. All the unions were represented.
Graham Moxon of the UCU spoke at the rally. He got a great response when he called for an escalation of the action. A National Union of Mineworkers official also spoke.
The protest followed a successful morning of determined picket lines.
At Barnsley College 30 were on the picket line. The college was effectively shut, there were no students at all.
It was the first time in decades it was closed so effectively.
Between 500 and 600 people gathered for an anti-cuts rally in Barrow-in-Furness. People brought banners and placards from Unite, GMB, Unison and PCS unions.
Trade unionists condemned the government’s policies on pensions and other public sector cuts that are damaging society.
Determined and upbeat pickets were out at all the main sites. One placard read “Traitor’s Gate” to greet the handful of scabs who’d gone in.
Most of the 1,000 people who joined the local rally then caught the train to Liverpool to join in the massive march and rally there.
A solid strike of UCU, ATL and Unison members closed Blackburn College today, Phil Webster reports from Blackburn.
Strikers gathered outside the college and marched to the town hall to join all the other public sector workers on strike today.
We marched round the town centre and back to the town hall for a very lively rally. The numbers on the demo ran into the thousands. It is one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in Blackburn.
The astonishing turnout in Bolton exceeded all expectations. Some 1,500 workers marched through the town following the noisiest and most vibrant rally we’ve seen in years.
There were mass pickets at Bolton hospital, as well as picket lines dotted around the town’s schools, college, university and council offices. Firefighters and other workers not on strike visited picket lines on their way to work.
The morning finished with a rally in the Labour Club—which was unable to accommodate the numbers involved. Agitprop folk singer Alan Parry (a name to watch) entertained with songs calling for workers’ power, struggle and resistance.
Barry Conway, Bolton NUT secretary, and Derek Coleman
More than 30 people are picketing at one site of Bradford College. Students are serving tea and coffee for their striking lecturers.
Sixth form centre students Piers and Milan said, “You helped us fight for our Education Maintenance Allowance so we’ll help you fight for your pensions. Your fight is our fight.”
Burnley General Hospital was the highlight of the day with 60 pickets on three entrances, with a top up of people who came from Nelson. Around 60 of us marched together into Burnley, where the rally swelled to 200.
In Nelson, the Town Council had a dozen on two separate pickets. Nelson and Colne College had 20 pickets.
Nelson Community Hospital only had two on the picket line—but no one crossed it apart from those doing agreed emergency cover.
Pickets were round every corner in Bury town centre today. There weren't many trying to ignore the pickets, but all were asked not to cross.
One or two were convinced to go back home after discussion. “There will be nothing for the young people in the future,” said one woman picket. “If people in the past hadn’t stood up and fought, where would we be now?”
Steve Morton, the local Unison branch secretary, said, “The fight has to go on. This government is rabid—if we allow them to bite us once, do you think they will stop?
“On the news last night it was estimated that 600,000 people will be losing their jobs. The government can’t dig themselves out of this hole.”
A worker from Bury College added, “Working until you are 67—it doesn't bear thinking about. Can you imagine lecturers working until then? Pensions are deferred pay, so basically the government is stealing money off us.”
John, another worker from Bury College, said “We’ve had lots of support from people passing by in cars, tooting their horns. I hope that if it’s seen that many people support the strike, the government will have to think again.”
There were approximately 1,500 people on the demonstration later in the morning. The crowd was lively and determined to make their views heard with whistles and chants and large union banners. The atmosphere was electric.
Over 1,700 people joined the march and rally in Carlisle after shutting down all the schools. Hospitals were also shut except for emergency work.
People marched through and past the seats of power in Chester today. Coaches brought more protesters from Ellesmere Port and the Wirral. We had a rally in the Guildhall.
There were 1,500 people on our march. It’s the biggest anyone’s ever seen in Chester, with a really good presence from Unison and the teaching unions. All the schools in Chester were closed.
I was on a feeder march for Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) with 40 other disabled people and care workers.
I spoke on behalf of DPAC at the rally in the Guildhall. I said it’s important that unions speak for all the other victims of the cuts—because no other power in the land will. Speakers from the UCU and PCS both called for ongoing action after today.
Over 2,500 marched through Chesterfield today in a lively demonstration. It was the biggest trade union event in the area since the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85. The march was loud, vibrant—and had a great reception from passers by in town. It finished with an outdoor rally in Rykneld Square in the shadow of Chesterfield’s famous crooked spire.
There were picket lines dotted across the town, ranging from large workplaces such as North East Derbyshire to small neigbourhood offices. The Chesterfield Royal Hospital had a particularly strong picket line.
Bev Bannister, a Unison member, was striking at Chesterfield’s Derwent House residential home. “We need to step it up for the future,” she said. “What’s happening is frightening. My dad walked from Chesterfield to London, sleeping rough, to look for work.”
Striking teachers joined a picket line at Newbold Community School in Chesterfield this morning. Geraint Jones, an NASUWT union rep, said, “We are fighting the erosion of our working conditions, such as increased workloads, as well as for our pensions.”
Mark Connaughton, an NUT union rep, said workers were “fighting for the future of education”. And strikers also had ideas for future action—including occupying schools.
Steve Hall, an NUT member, said, “After today we need to make MPs pay attention. Teachers don’t like to harm kids’ education, but they might do something like camp out in schools during the holidays.”
James Eaden and Dermot Smyth
There was a very lively and noisy strike rally in Crewe town centre. At least 150 people came, including members of Unison, NASUWT, Unite, PCS, GMB, Crewe trades council and others.
Speakers said the government should leave our pensions alone and we don't want our pensions to be used to bail out the bankers.
The picket lines at Delamere House council offices in Crewe went well this morning. We gave leaflets to everybody who would take them and we asked staff not to cross picket lines if they were union members.
Members of the public gave us their support. The local CWU branch secretary and women’s officer sent us messages of support and solidarity from their union.
Although some staff did go into Delamere House, numbers going in were low. Most of those going into work said they were either agency staff or contractors.
Reports have come in that there have also been successful picket lines at Crewe Municipal Buildings, where only about 30 staff have gone into work.
Nina Hammill, Unison Cheshire East steward (pc)
There was a gathering of workers from Unison, PCS, Unite and UCU together with some students at Durham’s Market Square today. This is the first time this has happened in years. The next mass action will build on today.
Some 90 percent of schools were closed in Calderdale, west Yorkshire. Unison and Unite pickets were at every entrance to Calderdale Royal Hospital.
Around 500 rallied outside Halifax town hall for a joint union rally. Jan Holden from the UCU said, “We have worked all our lives and paid into our pensions in good faith. We have done nothing wrong.
“Why should we pay for the crisis made by the bankers?”
Strikers and supporters will be discussing where next and dancing and drinking at tonight’s after-strike party in Hebden Bridge.
We had the biggest turnout in decades to our rally in Huddersfield. Up to 2,000 people rallied and marched through the town centre—including people we haven’t seen since the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85. There was a sea of banners and flags.
There were lively chants of “I’d rather be a picket than a scab” outside the Gateway building where scabs across Kirklees had been brought in by management.
Unison pickets were also amused to see scabs left outside the main civil building in Huddersfield this morning. A human resources officer tried to open up for them—but couldn’t deactivate the alarm!
Mehboob Khan, leader of Kirklees council, pledged his support for the campaign. Some 74 people joined Kirklees Unison yesterday.
June Jones and Pat Jones
Around 3,000 workers, students and supporters marched through Hull, after a rally held by the regional TUC.
The mood on the march was electric. Students chanted, “David Cameron, we know you—we smashed up your HQ.”
When the march returned to the central square, Phil Sanderson announced that for today Victoria Square would be renamed “Freedom Square”. This was in solidarity with activists in the Middle East and North Africa.
The call for the strikes to continue and deepen was echoed around the crowd, especially from the massive demonstration of firefighters in uniform from the FBU.
A representative from the union announced that there could well be a wave of strikes by firefighters soon as the government is ignoring negotiations.
Earlier around 80 students, lecturers and support staff picketed outside Hull university. They then marched to Victoria Square in the centre of Hull for a TUC rally. Unison council workers on picket lines applauded the march as it passed and cars stopped to honk in support.
People are saying this has been the biggest demo in Lancaster’s history—there were 1,200 people. Workers from different parts of the public sector spoke at the rally.
Theresa, a local government official, said, “Listen to the noise of the public sector workers today, Mr Cameron. If you choose to block it out we will just get louder and louder.”
Health worker Keith Johnston called the government’s pension reforms a “robbery” and said there would be “no surrender” from workers.
And Jason, a civil service worker, said when he started work he was told the wages aren’t great but he’d get a decent pension. Now that is under threat.
A UCU member from Lancaster University said, “This is only the start. We have to occupy the city centres until we have won. Hold this day in your hearts forever.” Now we are going for a strike after-party in Dalton Square.
The general feeling in Lancaster today is very optimistic. A PGCE student refused to cross a picket line at Thomas Ripley school. One parent took their child home because they wouldn’t cross the picket line.
A union rep for the Society of Radiographers at Lancaster Hospital said that pensions was “a really important issue and that’s why we’re striking.”
He added, “It’s one step too far for the government to take money from our pension fund and use it for other political reasons.”
Clive Scott is a Unison steward and operating department practitioner. He looks after people who are having operations. He said, “I’m encouraged by the new people joining the union, especially young people, and becoming more active in it too.
“I feel optimistic—this is just the start. I haven’t been on strike for 30 years. We’ve had a lot of support from workers not on strike. There’s longer strike action needed and people will be more confident to do that after today.”
At White Cross social services building, Unison steward Paul Shackley was optimistic too. “Today should change the general mood,” he said.
Eugene Docherty, president of Lancaster NUT addressed a militant rally, “The mood on the march was really angry—today is just the start of it. We need more action to win.
“I’ll be calling on the leadership of our union to call more strikes in January and keep striking until we bring them down.”
A UCU member from Lancaster University added, “There is a great sense of solidarity. Today is the birth of a new working class movement.”
Sally Laver of the Lancaster District Pensioners Campaign Group also spoke. She said, “We need to build a strike linking all the campaigners, workers, pensioners, students and the unemployed. We need to give everyone a voice.”
The carnival feeling of the march and rally continued after the official end with an after party in Dalton Square.
Musicians led an anti-Tory sing-a-long and around 30 people marched through the town centre chanting and dancing to drum & bass.
It ended in an unplanned demonstration in Market Square.
Shoppers and market traders in the town were very supportive, some applauding, some joining the march.
The demonstration drew in school children, dancing and holding UCU placards. Students gave impromtu speeches over the megaphone. One saying, “We are all in this together—but not the government, not the rich. We are the 99 percent—and we’re pissed off.”
This was an epic day for the working class in Leeds. Some 10,000 people joined the mass demonstration from Woodhouse Moor to Victoria Gardens in the city centre.
Malcolm Povey, a lecturer and UCU member at the University of Leeds, described the day as “a big boost to every worker”.
“We had the biggest number of pickets at the university that we’ve ever had,” he told Socialist Worker. “The public sector in Leeds was pretty much shut down. All the colleges were shut.
“Recruitment to the union has gone through the roof. And it isn’t just the UCU. The student union backed us and were out on the picket lines. This is just the beginning.”
Every picket line I visited was extremely solid. Leeds town hall was virtually closed. A Unison picket said, “There’s just six marriages, all done by a manager. It’s less busy than at Christmas.”
Many people marched down after the rally at Victoria Gardens to the Occupy Leeds protest camp in City Square. “The movement’s gone to a whole other level,” said one Occupy Leeds protester. “We’ve seen the power of strikes for the first time. We can all learn from each other.”
It was a great day. The strike was large and active and involved a new generation. There are many battles ahead but the mood in Leeds is strong and determined. This was the return of the organised working class.
Adam Collins and SJ Harrison
It’s midday and people are assembling at Liverpool’s pier heads for our demonstration. It’s already absolutely massive—thousands and thousands of trade unionists spread all along the front of the pier.
There’s a sea of purple flags from the massive Unison delegation at the front, and delegations with flags and banners from lots of different unions.
We got a massive cheer when we turned up in the Liverpool trades council battle bus. We’d been visiting picket lines all decked out in union banners. The pickets were really strong with 30 workers at the UK Borders Agency.
And the mood is exciting. The demo is already really noisy. On the picket lines people have been arguing about what to do next and how we can escalate the action.
A picket at the passport office told Socialist Worker “The next time we come out, it has to be all out indefinite.”
Emma Davies and Nick Fisher
A huge demonstration snaked its way through the centre of Manchester today, bringing the city to a standstill for at least two hours. Christmas shoppers and workers that were not on strike lined the route and applauded those marching.
Many of the demonstrators were equipped with plastic horns which added to the carnival atmosphere of the day. Strength in numbers prevented any problems caused by the police.
As the tens of thousands of protesters filed past the site of the Peterloo massacre it seemed to me that there a sense that trade unions had become a movement again—with the power to bring the government to its knees.
This was a political show of strength by Greater Manchester’s workers, and one that eclipsed all the scaremongering by the government and the sluggishness of much of the trade union bureaucracy. It was truly an inspiring sight—and hopefully one that we’ll see again in Manchester.
• Some 15 strikers picketed at Manchester Hammerstone Road bin depot today, the main bin depot in Manchester.
There was some movement in and out of the site by other workers, but union members delivered a solid strike.
One picket said, “What we need is a total walkout. The last pay rise we had was three years ago. Inflation goes up by 5 percent, but the pay only goes up by 1 percent.”
He added that if private sector workers had poor pensions schemes, “they should get hold of their boss and ask why”.
A union rep at the site described the strike as “very solid”. He was angry at Osborne’s autumn statement.
“The workers have, effectively, not had a pay rise for six years,” he said. “Now they’re telling us that it’ll be capped to 1 percent for another two years. It’s disgraceful.”
Striking environmental worker Kevin Barry was picketing at the Grimshore Lane depot, which is responsible for the parks and highways.
He said, “Osborne wants to make the public services more attractive to take over and privatise. They won’t invest in jobs.
“Public sector workers don’t claim expenses like Tory MPs do. We need more joint action by the union.”
There were about 13 strikers on this lively picket, which was well supported by passing motorists and particularly by numerous passing lorry drivers. The pickets were from Unite and GMB.
Elsewhere, on a section of road 200 metres long there were five separate pickets. Four were by NHS staff, mainly in Unison, and another was at Manchester Metropolitan University.
One woman health worker said, “My pension is not safe, even though I’ve worked all of my life.
“The gas and electricity bills are going up. Everything’s going up. Were going back to the workhouse, like in the Victorian days. There’s no point in going into a pension scheme. It’ll get eaten up by the fat cats.”
Another nurse added, “We’ve had enough. We work hard. We do unpaid overtime, just like the teachers do. When David Cameron’s having his turkey on Christmas day and watching the Queen on TV we’re going to be in here [at work in the hospital].”
Manchester Adult Education Services (MAES) was almost completely shut down today. Management had tried to keep two sites open, but only a handful of staff crossed picket lines.
A UCU member who is a tutor for MAES told Socialist Worker, “This is not just about our pension.
“It’s about future generations so they have a fair pension and can enjoy their retirement rather than live in poverty.
“If we don't stand up for the young, who else will?”
A Unison member added that they were also striking “for the future of my children and grandchildren” but also “because we’re being taxed for the bankers”.
PCS members formed a picket line outside Graeme House in Chorlton, Manchester. Around 50 out of 450 staff went in, most of them management.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “Working conditions have deteriorated significantly and the signs suggest that things will get worse. Standards have been undermined to an unbearable degree and many people have left as a result.:”
Referring to George Osborne’s autumn statement in parliament, the striker said, “Everybody thought it would be terrible—but after yesterday’s announcement, now we know it’s going to be horrendous!”
• Over 50 pickets and supporters rallied outside the Mental Health Trust HQ in Chorlton, Manchester.
One striking community mental health nurse told Socialist Worker, 'The Tories have declared war on us, on the working class. We can't let them get away with it.'
The '1% Vampires', a local youth theatre group, performed a play on the picket line. They announced, 'We are here to suck the blood of the 99 percent’ and then toured the picket line 'biting' trade unionists.
'We are all off to Manchester now for the demonstration and rally,' said Ben, the Unison joint Branch Chair.
We had between 20,000 and 30,000 people on our demonstration—that’s much bigger than before, and then it included people from towns like Bury and Bolton. This time those towns had their own rallies, so this turnout was just from Manchester.
There were banners from all the big unions—Unison, Unite, GMB and so on. Others were from unions we don’t see as often.
They included Prospect, the occupational therapists’ union, the Chartered Society of Midwives, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the FDA.
“I’ve never been on strike in my career,” a woman in the Prospect union working in the heritage sector told Socialist Worker. “There’s a big difference between what Thatcher did and what the Tories are doing now. Thatcher bought people off, but they’re not even trying that now.”
An education feeder march brought 500 students and workers from Manchester’s universities.
This follows lively pickets in many Manchester workplaces. Some 40 people at the social workers’ picket in Gorton, east Manchester, sent away scabs.
And the Manchester Royal Infirmary hospital was incredible—Unison said there were 200 people on 17 picket lines at just that one site.
There’s a good mood on picket lines at Manchester Metropolitan University. More than 60 people are picketing the central site. Pickets turned away bin workers and lots of students but some workers are crossing picket lines.
Workers in Middlesbrough picketed outside at least 11 workplaces—almost every major public sector employer in the town centre.
Students came to show solidarity with Teesside University UCU. For four hours the 50-strong picket line rang with cries of “fair pensions for all”.
Militant NHS workers picketed every entrance to one of Middlesbrough’s largest employers, St James Cook hospital. The town's tax office was also treated to a lively and enthusiastic picket line, and strikers report that hardly any staff had gone to work.
Alexandra Allport from Redcar, said, “I’ve worked for HMRC for 27 years. I’m not asking for millions. I’m only asking for what’s been promised to me. The bankers get their contractual bonuses. Why can’t we get our contractual pension?”
Unions reps seemed to feel that a general strike was the next step—and were more than happy to discuss a date for a general strike.
Some 500 workers, students and members of the public marched through the town centre on a noisy demonstration to a rally with music and speeches from activists.
There were strong picket lines across the city in Newcastle. The city’s library was shut down, as was Gateshead civic centre.
Other picket lines included Newcastle College, Newcastle civic centre and Northumbria university, where a team of cyclists delivered coffee and tea to striking lecturers. Jobcentres across the city also had strong pickets organised by the PCS.
More than 200 Newcastle university lecturers and students marched through Newcastle to the assembly point for the main march.
There were up to 10,000 on the march itself as it marched a long the Tyne. Firefighters in uniform joined the march in solidarity even though they were not on strike.
The day ended with a TUC rally followed by a Unite the Resistance rally that attracted over 300 rank and file workers. It was a great turn out and we aim to coordinate further action.
Around 1,000 marched through Oldham today in a demonstration against the government’s pensions changes, reports.
There were large contingents from the NUT, GMB, Unison and Unite unions. Speakers at the rally included local MP Michael Meacher.
Pickets were out early across Preston. At the RPH hospital there were two picket lines of 80 and 40 workers.
Debbie Turner, a local Unison branch officer, told Socialist Worker that over 200 people had joined the union in the last four weeks.
Radiographers, nurses, office staff and maintenance staff are together on the picket lines.
At the University of Central Lancashire there were five picket lines across the campus with workers and students on each one. Workers were keen that another strike day be announced soon.
At Lancashire County Hall the picture was less rosy. No pre-strike meetings, no information about the day and a history of poor organisation meant the response was poor.
About 500 strikers held a large, noisy demonstration. There were large contingents from Unison, Unite, UCU, PCS, and GMB.
Scores of pickets were out at Rotherham General Hospital, council buildings and the main college. There was a buoyant mood among strikers.
One Unison member at Dearne Valley FE college said, “We should all be out together, public and private sector.”
Passersby backed the strikers. One passing taxi driver shouted, “We’ve got to get rid of this bloody Tory government.”
Jill Adams from Rotherham NUT said, “The teachers pension has had £42 billion more paid in to it than has been paid out. Our pension fund pays for itself—it is no burden on the taxpayer.
“The teachers pension is not gold plated. The average woman’s pension is £8,500 a year. Essentially this attack is about making public sector workers pay for the crisis caused by the bankers.
“This is an attack on out fundamental rights as workers. We are fighting not just for our pensions but for our children to have a decent future.”
Phil Turner and Ralph Dyson
Around 50 workers picketed at the Turnpike House refuse depot in Salford. Not one bin wagon left the depot that morning. One refuse collector and Unison steward said, “We’ve been prepping for weeks to build the strikes and it’s paid off.
“It’s been a really nice atmosphere. We stopped two lots of deliveries, the milkman and the water man.”
One social worker said, “They [the pickets] were well organised and well mannered, this wasn't the case with the people crossing the lines.”
People were disgusted by the media spin that was put on the strike and the demonstrations that followed. But it didn’t dampen their rebellious spirits.
Workers discussed what they thought should happen next to keep the pressure on a Tory government that is hell-bent on destroying everything they work for.
Some 75 students occupied a lecture theatre in Sheffield university’s Arts Tower today in solidarity with striking N30 workers.
Thom Wilson reports from the occupation, “We’d organised student ‘flying pickets’ with a group of students going round all picket lines at each of the two universities.
“Then we had more than 200 students on a feeder march from Sheffield university to join the main TUC march and rally. They announced that it was the biggest demonstration in Sheffield for 50 years.”
Sheffield student Tom Kay spoke on the platform at the rally. He said “Students need to link up with workers. Today isn’t the be all and end all. We need to take further action and to build on the numbers to get a general strike.”
Thom adds, “We went for the Arts Tower, this huge tower block overlooking the campus, which they can never close because it houses the admin offices.
“We’d spread the word during the student feeder march, and everyone was up for it. About 100 of us marched in and occupied a lecture theatre. We met with no resistance.”
“We’re drawing up a list of demands—but obviously we’re in solidarity with the strikers—and we’re going to invite trade unionists in for a meeting.”
A solid picket took place at Springwell Community School in Staveley, near Chesterfield.
The Unison union rep, Helen Cheatham, said, “We believe not a single penny of the extra contributions we are being asked to pay will go to the pension fund.
“It is all going to pay off the deficit caused by the banking crisis. We are proud to picket today for a decent pension for all public sector workers.”
Anthony Karl Page
RMT members at Tyne & Wear Metro have delivered “rock-solid strike action” that has led to a “total shutdown” of trains and ferries in the North East, the union reports.
Strikers and their supporters will assemble at Gateshead later for a march to Spillers Wharf in Newcastle for a joint rally at noon with other unions.
“We are sending the clearest message to the government that we will defend our pensions to the hilt,” said RMT general secretary Bob Crow.
“It’s the bankers and the bosses who have gambled with our country’s future and the men and women who make our services tick should not have to tolerate a worse pension, and be forced to work longer, to make up for their mistakes.”
A rally at Wakefield attracted around 2,000 people. It featured speakers from the NUT, FBU, Unison, ATL and BFAWU. An electrician from Unite spoke about their dispute and a collection was held for them.
The youngest speaker was 14 year old Tom Mortimer from UK Uncut. Local Unison steward Andy Brammer Unison received a cheer when he said this was only the beginning.
Almost all of Wakefield’s schools were closed to pupils. A Unison member I spoke to at Kettlethorpe High School said workers need to use this strike as launching pad for further joint action.
About 30 members of POA at Wakefield prison came down to support the rally.
Pickets completely closed Ashton job centre and Ashton benefits office strikers turned delivery lorries away.
Most schools were closed. Not one lorry left the cleansing depot at Hindley Bins due to a joint Unison and Unite picket line.
Passersby brought food and drink to strikers at Claire House. More than 500 joined a demonstration, from all unions, which marched into the town centre. It held a brief protest outside the town hall on the way, as a Labour council had tried to ban the march.
A rally heard calls to name another strike day or days and for Wigan Trades Council to coordinate these. Dave Lowe, a Unison steward in Wigan, said, “This was a magnificent and historic day in Wigan.
“Never have I seen such united action by the trade unions in this town. The union leadership should now name further strike days if we are going to win.”
Over 2,500 people marched through York in the biggest trade union demonstration seen in the city since 1981.
There were huge delegations of teachers, civil servants and Unison members. A lively rally at York Minster applauded loudly when speakers called for escalation to a general strike.
In a city normally associated with sectarian division there was a remarkable feeling of unity today.
Workers came together from the four corners of the city to the biggest mobilisation of the discontented masses since the historic anti-war demo in 2003.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 workers from public sector unions and their supporters came into the city centre to show their opposition to the pension cuts.
Many were young workers striking for the first time.
We are in a unique position in Northern Ireland.
Two of the five parties currently in coalition in the assembly (SDLP and Sinn Fein) claim to be ideologically opposed to the cuts, both here and in the south.
Yet their ministers push through every piece of legislation that attacks the public sector that they are asked to—whether they could oppose it or not.
True to form, some representatives from those parties did show up at the picket lines but I’m glad to say that pickets vocally expelled them!
There was a good selection of speakers on the platform. Some activists made the connections to the wider international movement against the cuts and the importance of the Occupy movement.
The day will hopefully go down in history as the beginning of the sort of cross community working class solidarity we’ve seen only too rarely.
More than 200,000 workers in Northern Ireland are on strike in the biggest action for over 30 years. The action hit schools, hospitals, transport and government. All 1,200 schools are disrupted and more than two thirds shut.
In the Belfast NHS Trust, 3,000 outpatient appointments have been postponed. Across Northern Ireland the public transport system has ground to a halt.
Jimmy Kelly, regional organiser for the Unite union, told Socialist Worker, “We have been brought to a situation where our members across health, education, local government and transport are really declaring that enough is enough.”
Over 2,000 people have assembled for the strike rally in Aberdeen.
The day’s been going brilliantly. The strikes have been solid, and every picket line has had at least half a dozen pickets. There’s a real mood of militancy here.
Students who have been occupying Aberdeen University marched to the rally from the occupation.
I’m in Unison. On my picket line this morning at Criminal Justice Social Work Services, lots of students visited us with hot drinks and food.
We also had postal workers from the CWU come and support us on the picket line.
Despite floods, more than 300 people rallied in Dumfries—around a quarter from the EIS union. Pickets were pretty effective, and were needed because of an inset day.
Thousands struck across Dumfries, including council workers, health workers and civil service workers.
A fantastic 10,000 people have joined a rally in Dundee, reports Carlo Morelli. “The mood is really angry and really lively,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I spoke to one UCU member on the picket line at Dundee University this morning. She’d worked at the university for around 30 years and been on strike before—but never joined a picket line.
“I asked why she came to the picket line. She reeled off a whole list of things that had happened to her, her friends and her family. These included her partner having to retire due to ill health and her neighbour facing redundancy.
“None of her reasons were about pensions. This is typical of the generalisation that people are feeling. That’s why the public support this strike so much too—because they know it’s about more than just pensions.”
Over three times as many as had been expected turned up to march in Edinburgh today.
Around 15,000 workers marched from the castle to the Scottish Parliament in defence of their pensions.
It was a lively and cheerful march, but many people were angry at the way public sector workers were being targeted for wage freezes and pension cuts.
George, a teacher from the West of Edinburgh, said, “I worked out this morning that my pay will be cut by 22 percent in the next four years if inflation falls to 4 percent. If not it will be worse. I am angry.”
For many, this was their first demonstration. Groups of radiographers and physiotherapists had practice sessions for chanting.
John who was marching for the first time said, “I am only 19 years old and people ask me why I am marching when I won't need a pension for years. I tell them this is about our future and other people's present.”
Three feeder marches joined the main march. Trade unionists from West Edinburgh met together at Haymarket and walked up to the march. Activists from Occupy Edinburgh left their camp in St Andrews Square en masse and marched up to join the march.
Finally 500 students from Edinburgh University led a vibrant march to the protest, sitting down and occupying roads and keeping up a constant barrage of chants.
The main mosque provided huge tureens of vegetable and chicken curry to feed hungry marchers for free.
Unfortunately it wasn't clear from the many speeches given from the battle bus what the next steps would be. Many demonstrators wanted to know the answer to that.
Alison, a council worker from Fife, said, “It’s important this is not the end of the campaign. I’ve lost a day's pay and I don’t mind losing more as long as we have a real fight and a real chance of winning. There's no point in only going half way up the hill!”
Some 20 pickets, including PCS, Prospect and FDA union members, gathered outside Victoria Quay in Leith, Edinburgh, from 7am this morning.
Victoria Quay is the main office building for the Scottish government—and only a handful of senior staff and agency workers went in.
Pickets said more action was needed to break the government. One said, “One day won't do it. We need to have more action in January.”
Half a dozen pickets from the PCS were outside Leith job centre. Only four senior staff crossed the picket line while the rest of workers remained out on strike.
One picket said, “Yesterday’s announcement by George Osborne has made everybody even angrier. A pay freeze on top of the pensions cuts is out of order. We need to strike again in January or February.”
Outside Bonnington Centre, a social work office, five pickets kept the building shut.
Strikers were upbeat and determined to win. Passersby stopped to talk. Fire engines and vans going past tooted in solidarity.
Lorraine, a home care worker in Unison said, “I think we should constantly fight for the younger generation. The pensions battle is a battle for us all.”
Everybody planned to join the demonstration later in the day.
Ian Hood and Stephen McBroom
Louise, a Unison member, works in human resources at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. She said, “It’s a really good turnout and we’re getting good support. We seem to be getting our point across.
“The media tell complete lies—that we’re being greedy and that our pensions are gold plated. But this simply isn’t true. We’ve already had pay freezes, and the extra money that we’re going to have to pay isn’t even going towards pensions at all.”
Gordon is a nurse at the hospital. He felt very angry “at being made to work twelve and a half hour shifts”. He said, “How can people be expected to do a job like this, with these shifts for so long?
“We’ve had pay freezes. Now we’re having to suffer even more pain. I’m really angry because this isn’t what I signed up for at all.”
About 30 students, Unison, EIS and Unite union members gathered at Caledonian university, Glasgow as their strike began at midnight. Joined by a piper, they piped in a new era of resistance to the Tories.
• Up to 20,000 striking workers and their supporters took to the streets of Glasgow today for the public sector pension strike. Workers from EIS, Unison, PCS, GMB, Unite and UCU flooded the city’s Shuttle Street meeting point with a sea of people.
The arranged start time of 12.30 was pushed back by around 45 minutes as organisers struggled to accomodate the unexpectedly large numbers. The venue for the closing rally was too small to contain the huge crowds.
Ian Ferguson, president of Stirling University UCU said, “We have to fight together to defend pensions—but we also have to go beyond that to defend higher education, the welfare state and fight benefit cuts.”
David Nicholson from Stirling University’s Labour Students Group said, “I’m here to support the hundreds of trade union members who are out today. Striking is the only tool we have left, short of violent revolt. If people can’t withdraw their labour what can we do?”
Sara McCauley, a teacher from Grangemouth High School, was keen to speak to Socialist Worker. “I was on a demo in the 1980s against the poll tax and student loans, and I somehow ended up on the front page of Socialist Worker,” she said.
“I'm here from Grangemouth today because most of our teachers live around the city. We wanted to show support with the huge numbers out in Glasgow.”
Sharon, a teacher from the south side of Glasgow, worked in banking before moving to the public sector. “I used to work for RBS and I really didn't like it, so I moved into this sector to try and give something back,” she said.
“You work for the public and you expect a certain level of pension and to work to a certain age—and then that gets taken away from you.”
Ken Rooney, a nurse from Glasgow, said, “I've got a young family. My wife is also a public sector worker. This is going to affect my children’s future. The way the debt system is right now is crippling to family life.”
• A large number of Unite members have refused to cross Unison picket lines at the Queens Cross Housing Association in Glasgow.
Unison members were balloted because they are still on the local government pension scheme. Unite members weren’t balloted, but most stood in solidarity with the picket.
• Gordon Leggate reports from Glasgow North. “We visited Kentigern House which is an MOD site. The picket was really strong with a mix of PCS and Unite workers.
One Unite member told me, “We’re frozen, just like our pensions.”
But there was a great mood on the picket lines, despite the chill.
Strikers got lots of support from passersby. People are saying this is only the beginning. Osborne’s speech yesterday has made people even more angry—they said it is a “kick in the face”.
• PCS union members are picketing at many sites, including the Student Loans Company and the DVLA.
Strikers at the Student Loans Company said they’d noticed a big improvement since 30 June, when quite a few people crossed picket lines.
This time some people crossed but then came back out. Two people joined the PCS on the picket line.
Many councils in Scotland designated Public-Private Partnership secondary school buildings as strike breaking centres. Scabs could report to them from across all the schools in each local area.
The EIS teaching union in South Lanarkshire set up picket lines on all 17 schools.
Early reports from the pickets show that they were well attended and got lots of support.
At one school there were a handful of scabs from other schools but only four out of more than 120 teachers crossed the picket line.
Andrew Searil reports that several hundred people rallied today in Stornoway, the capital of the Western Isles.
They marched from the Comhairlie nan Eilean Siar headquarters to the centre of town to a rally organised by the recently revived trades council.
Earlier this morning, around the capital of the Western Isles, a dozen picket lines showed the depth of support across public services.
Unison and Unite members from health and local government took part in the action. EIS members in schools, PCS members in DWP offices and the Coastguard and Port Authority joined them.
Across most affected sites, local union leaders estimated that less than 5 percent of staff had reported for work.
Some 500 people came on the demonstration in Aylesbury organised by Buckinghamshire Save Our Services. The hall for the rally was overflowing—there wasn’t enough room for everyone, including me!
At least 10,000 people took to the streets of Brighton to create the biggest demonstration anyone in the city can remember.
The excitement built through the morning as pickets from dozens of workplaces joined three feeder marches, each thousands strong, from west, north and east.
They converged at Victoria Gardens where they met with the local Occupy camp. The main march then took a circuit of the city, defying squally showers to rally again at The Level.
Speakers from striking unions, plus Brighton’s Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, caught the militant mood. Demonstrators cheered calls for an escalation of the strike action.
Eastbourne saw a 500-strong rally in support of the strikes. Demonstrators were buoyant and eager for more. Speeches calling for an escalation of the action were well received.
There was an astonishing march and rally in Bristol today, reports Jeff Brewster, the largest demonstration in the city in living memory.
From the gathering by the Occupy site to the march destination at Castle Green, the city was alive with the sound of resistance to the Tories cuts agenda.
Trade union banners and flags provided banks of colour. They were mixed with original and humorous placards showing exactly what we thought of the government’s raid on our pension and savage cuts.
Huw Williams reports that around 50 trade unionists welcomed in the strike at the Bristol Royal Infirmary at midnight.
Students from University of the West of England, who have been in occupation to support the strikes, were there too.
By 12.30pm a large crowd had already gathered for the strike march in Chelmsford town centre.
The strikers were in high spirits, and there was a turnout of around 800— the largest march and rally in recent years.
At the Chelmsford Against the Cuts stall many members of the public signed the petition to support public sector pensions, which will be handed in to local MP Simon Burns.
On returning to the town centre, the marchers listened to speeches by representatives of PCS, the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, the Society of Radiologists, Unite and the trades council.
Students in the Education Activist Network (EAN) at Essex University came to greet the UCU picket lines today.
They have been campaigning for students to support the strike over the past few months.
One of the lectures that wasn’t cancelled due to the strike was the Introduction to Politics module, which usually draws 200 students. But today only 50 turned up—and nearly half of these walked out after EAN activists went in, made announcements and gave out leaflets.
In nearby Colchester, 800 people joined the strike demonstration. Up to 100 people were on the picket lines at Colchester General Hospital.
“This was the best demonstration in Colchester living memory,” Danny Miles, branch officer for Essex County Unison, told Socialist Worker. “The turnout emphasises the willingness of people to stand up and continue the fight.”
There were around 5,000 on the demonstration in Exeter. The strike was very solid in the county and city councils and also pretty good in schools—around 50 percent were completely closed.
The strike was patchier in the hospitals, the college and university. Lots of people are saying that it’s time to talk about bringing down the government. Great day! Biggest demonstration in Exeter since 1832!
NUT members from Fareham and Gosport in Hampshire were joined by members of PCS, Unite and Unison in leafleting members of the public about why they were on strike.
Around 80 of us then boarded the ferry to travel to Portsmouth, waving our flags to passing ships. On arrival in Portsmouth we marched as a feeder march to join the main rally in the Guildhall Square, where we got a great reception.
Penny Foskett, Gosport & Fareham NUT
Around 1,000 members of the NUT, ATL, Unison, PCS, Unite and NASUWT attended a magnificent outdoor rally at County Hall, Hertford after marching through the town.
Speaker after speaker emphasised the need to build on today's actions and condemned the government's robbery of our pension funds.
But everyone also knew that today's strike was about more than pensions. It was about fairness, decency and not allowing working people to pay for a crisis that is not of their making.
Earlier in the day, pickets gathered on all campuses of the University of Hertfordshire where many lectures were cancelled and services diminished.
Jon Berry, branch secretary UCU (pc)
Kate Douglas from Oxfordshire PCS reports, “At Oxford’s jobcentre only 12 out of 100 staff went to work today—mostly senior managers who’ve had no contact with the public for years.
“There were lots of new people on the picket line. We had a group of flying pickets come from Ruskin College to spread solidarity. Some teachers came along too.
“There was also a great picket line at Banbury jobcentre. We’ve not had one there for years. A manager there said that George Osborne “tipped the balance” yesterday with his speech. There is no rep at that jobcentre, so for only a handful to go in is brilliant.”
Picket lines have had a serious effect on the refuse collection service. Only three dust carts left the Oxford city council depot today. The town hall is closed and there are pickets at all major council sites. Some 210 out of 290 schools were closed in Oxfordshire.
Health workers in Oxford have also been striking. Dayne Dougan reports, “Health workers have been rallying and picketing in Oxford today. They assembled a feeder march to join the main demo.”
Anu reports that strikers at Oxford Ridgeway partnership are in a militant mood. Vera Clarke, a home support worker, said, “We need to up our game because the only power we have is to strike.”
Meanwhile Oxford university’s UCU branch picketed buildings with their union banner bearing the slogan “Knowledge is Power”.
UCU members picketed at Ruskin college and the main Oxford university admin office. Students held an impromptu picket at the Oxford university exams hall.
• A walk down one street in Oxford at 7.30am saw five separate picket line—including one at Oxford Police Station. “It’s good-natured, people in the police are understanding,” said a striking police community support officer.
Over the road, Ruth Williams from the PCS said that 84.9 percent of Thames Valley’s Ministry of Justice workers were out on strike.
Another picketing council worker said, “There’s general sympathy. People understand why we’re doing it.”
When asked if he would strike again he, like many others, simply said “yes”.
Unison member Pól Ó’Ceallaigh said, “One day is not going to win it—we need effective action again and again.”
Many strikers pointed out that their pension schemes were well funded and added that today was about more than just pensions.
Solidarity was everywhere. Cars honked their horns in support. Banbury’s No. 1 GMB branch came to the march—despite not being on strike. Students visited picket lines and Filipino nurses brought cake to health pickets.
Students picketed lectures at the University’s Examination Schools. Unison has recruited nearly 2,000 new members in the past month.
Matt Myers, a first year student at Oxford University, summed up the confident mood: “Osborne hit yesterday, we have shown today that we can hit harder”.
An estimated 5,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally in Broad Street (the second largest demo in the Southeast).
A range of feeder marches fed into it.
An ATL teacher said, “We’ve been a no-strike union for 127 years and now we’ve had two in the space of six months.”
The march was an explosion of unity, solidarity and anger and possibly the largest the city has seen in a long time.
In the words of health worker Vera Clarke, “Today is just the beginning. Now we need to up our game because the only power we have is to strike.”
Four feeder marches brought 3,000 strikers and their supporters to Guildhall Square for a rally. From here they marched through the city centre.
There were banners here from the PCS, RMT, Unison, NUT, Unite, UCU, Occupy Portsmouth, Portsmouth Student Union and the Woodcraft Folk.
Seize The Day are playing and people are talking about global solidarity and the Egyptian revolution. There are lots of children and pensioners here too.
Sam Bogg and Jon Woods
Southampton saw its largest demonstration since the war on the 20 November. Up to 4,000 trades unionists marched through the town to a rally in Guildhall Square to applause from Christmas shoppers.
Speakers from unions involved in the strikes spoke to loud cheers as they derided the government’s attitude to the strike day and emphasised that this action is just the beginning.
Guest speakers from the Teamsters and United Steel Workers unions in the US also brought fraternal greetings and spoke of their successes in driving back recent attacks on union rights.
Despite a shower at one point, the march and rally showed the upbeat determination of strikers to make it clear that they will fight for their pension rights.
Students from both universities also came in numbers, some marching with their UCU lecturers. All libraries were closed, as were most schools. Southampton and Solent universities were effectively shut down by the action of UCU members.
Unite and Unison members who have been fighting the Tory council all this year came out in great numbers and greater enthusiasm. The local TUC president ended the rally calling for the strikers to recruit members and stewards—and build for the next rally to be twice the size.
Around 1,000 people packed into a pensions strike rally in Truro in Cornwall this morning. The audience included about 25 ambulance workers in uniform and 12 fire fighters in uniform.
The hall was filled to capacity—hundreds were forced to wait outside. Strikers and supporters then marched through the city to the cathedral. Police estimated some 3,000 on the march.
An estimated 1,000 people marched from Winchester Guildhall, filling the High Street from the Buttercross nearly all the way up to the Westgate. It was an inspiring sight as shoppers applauded.
Families, workers and trade unionists from all over Hampshire then rallied on Oram’s Arbour for rousing speeches, including some brilliant rap-style verse from a UCU member at Winchester University. Young teachers joined seasoned council staff, many saying that it was their first strike.
Lee Billingham, a council worker and Unison steward, reports from Worthing: “We’ve had a march of about 700, with a rally where loads of ordinary workers got up and spoke.
“There were big delegations from the PCS and Unison, lots of teachers and health workers, and people from Napo. The probation office was shut down, as was the FE college and all but two of the schools.
“At the council where I work we had about 30 pickets—double what we’ve had on previous strikes. And the hospital was really well picketed too, with 30 there as well. Next is a meeting at 2pm about what we do next.”
“This was the first strike I’ve ever been on, and for lots of my colleagues it was their first time too,” said Elizabeth Allen, a community neighbourhood worker and Unison member at the council.
“It was really exciting for everyone to come together. A woman told me it was a really liberating experience—she’d never done anything political before.
“It was great to have a place we could really get angry and have a voice. As individuals it’s hard to make a difference, as a collective but you can really make yourselves heard.
“The rally was excellent—we heard from real people talking, not just politicians for once. They told it how it is, and that really resonated with people.”
It’s been a fantastic day so far. The BBC is saying 90 percent of schools are shut across Wales—all are shut in Cardiff. The demo is huge, over 5,000 people, and very lively.
There were picket lines at the hospital and all the council offices. At Cardiff university staff and students held a teach-out on the picket lines, talking about the economy, the attacks and how we can fight back.
There were over 200 people in Bangor, among them staff from the Countryside Council for Wales who say their offices are severely disrupted. Another 300 gathered in Merthyr Tydfil.
All schools closed in Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
• There was a strong PCS picket line outside the tax office in Cardiff. Only a handful of workers have crossed it and strikers have seen good support from the public.
Ian Bosworth, a lecturer at Coleg Morgannwg and UCU branch chair said, “Three out of four of out sites were completely shut—and the one that was open was picketed by workers from the other sites.
“We need to call on the TUC to call more action. It’s obvious the coalition has been weakened by today, but it’s certainly not defeated. Today has shown that strikes are the way to beat the Tories”
Des visited picket lines in Newport, South Wales. “The passport office is 90 percent solid,” PCS branch organiser Ben Rapier told Socialist Worker.
Strikers were joined by their children on the picket line, who had made their own placards. One read “Don’t rip off my mum’s pension”.
There were also delegations of striking Unison and UCU members present. UCU had an impressive picket outside the university’s new city centre campus, with members giving impassioned speeches about building the union.
The atmosphere was also electric at the train station, as a mass of Unison pickets met up to go to rally in Cardiff.
Over 1,500 strikers and supporters rallied in Swansea today. Fred and Helen from Swansea report, “There is a brilliant feeling here in South Wales. The ‘six pickets’ rule has disappeared—we’ve seen pickets of over 20 again and again today.
“Students visited the Swansea university picket lines to support their lecturers in the UCU. Police control room workers in Unison walked out of their Dyfed Powys station at midnight and have huge support.
“At the Land Registry PCS branch secretary Liz Evans was playing The Red Flag on the accordion to around 20 pickets.
“We have also visited probation workers, the courts, the refuge collection depot and many others. All of them had strong picket lines.”
Some 20 workers in the UCU union picketed Swansea university today. Students came out to support them and brought them cups of tea. Labour MP Jane Davis also came along to offer her support.
There was also good support from school, college and university students, many supporting their teacher and lecturers: 'As the young generation we are not going to take the Tory lies about cuts and having to work longer for less' said Sheena, 16, who said this was her first experience of being involved with a protest.