Around 5,000 council workers in Hackney, east London, struck for three days this week in a defiant response to cuts pushed through by the ruling Labour-Tory coalition. Max Caller, the council's managing director, and Labour leader Jules Pipe say the council's workers are overpaid and have too many holidays. 'Caller gets £150,000 a year. How dare he tell people who work their guts out for £13,000 a year that they are overpaid,' striking UNISON member Jane Brockway told Socialist Worker on Monday.
The council proposes £50 million in cuts over the next three years. That means closures, mass privatisation, huge pay cuts and job losses. The cuts are the result of an International Monetary Fund style 'structural adjustment' austerity programme dictated by central government.
Caller and Pipe were booed and heckled at a union mass meeting last week. 'Take a pay cut yourselves,' yelled some. 'Resign, you wankers,' shouted others. The strike was absolutely solid. At least 25 schools closed when teachers refused to cross UNISON and GMB picket lines. On Tuesday around 400 workers and their supporters marched on Dowing Street to demand the government tax the rich to fund services. And on Wednesday hundreds of people were expected at an anti-cuts rally.
The strikes are a great step forward. Now it's time to make the strikes all-out and indefinite to cause the sort of political crisis that would have New Labour sweating.
Students stand in solidarity
By Sinead Kirwan, student at Kingsland School, Hackney
Our teachers were outside the gates when we arrived for school on Monday. Caretakers and support staff were on strike. That made the school unsafe. The headteacher wanted to hold classes and do 'a risk assessment'. That would have meant putting everyone at risk.
A delegation of teachers spoke to the head, but the rest stayed on the gates and we had the day off. The council says the strike is damaging people in Hackney. That's bollocks. We would have been damaged if we had been forced into unsafe classrooms. A couple of us helped hand out leaflets outside the town hall. Most people trust the strikers, not the council.