Socialist Worker

30 June strikes: This is just the start

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2259

Striking council workers march alongside teachers, lecturers and civil service workers in Birmingham  (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

Striking council workers march alongside teachers, lecturers and civil service workers in Birmingham (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


The strike by public sector workers on Thursday of last week was a magnificent success.

Some 750,000 PCS, UCU, ATL and NUT members took part in the action—furious over the government’s attacks on their pensions, jobs and conditions.

Teachers, lecturers and civil service workers walked out. Council workers in Birmingham, Doncaster and Southampton struck too (see right).

In the run up to the strike the government and the right wing press portrayed strikers as greedy dinosaurs and a threat to the nation.

Government ministers Francis Maude and Michael Gove, backed by David Cameron, begged workers to break the strike.

But the strikers held firm in the face of a government and media onslaught and marched across towns and cities in their tens of thousands—from Truro in Cornwall to Dundee in Scotland.

It was a strike that resonated with millions under attack by this Tory government of thieves.

That is why the majority of people supported the strikes.

And that is why, the day after the strike, the government and right wing press suddenly changed their tune.

On Friday the Sun ran a tiny story at the bottom of the front page with the headline “Pension walkout is a flop.” They claimed that workers voted with their feet “and marched into work”.

The Daily Mail ran two pages quoting 10 Downing Street on the supposed low strike turnout.

But these are lies. The strike was massively effective.

Some 13,000 schools out of 21,000 were hit. Ben Morris, joint NUT branch secretary in Sheffield, told Socialist Worker, “People have poured into the union because of the strike.

“In one school membership went up from 17 to 36 before the strike. A school near the NUT office came in to join as a group.

“There were requests for seven new NUT banners from different schools—we’ve never had that.”

Claim

The government tried to claim that less than 100,000 civil servants struck. But the PCS union says that 84 percent of members walked out.

In London cops were pulled off the streets to answer the phones for 999 calls—because 192 out of 202 staff refused to come in to work.

Across the DWP the strike was 90 percent solid.

Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was hit hard. Some 85 percent of workers were off work—around 64,000 people, more than the total 57,000 PCS members in HMRC.

The PCS reports that their HMRC group recruited nearly 600 members before the strike, bringing new members to 1,755 this year.

Marianne Owens works at Cardiff Revenue and Customs. She told Socialist Worker, “Our car park normally has 2,000 cars, but there were only 40 today. The strike is solid. We had NUT members bring us solidarity.”

Even the courts ground to a halt. In Liverpool only five workers turned up, and two major trials had to be postponed. Six of the seven courts were closed at the Scottish Court Services in Dundee.

At airports, travellers described long queues because so few passport desks were open.

These examples show up the government spin.

And next time we can hit them even harder.


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