Socialist Worker

Time to escalate pensions strikes

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2296

Teachers and lecturers across London were set to strike on Wednesday of this week.

The action will hit schools, further education colleges and some universities as NUT and UCU union members strike to defend their pensions.

Kate Hall is a lecturer at Tower Hamlets College in east London. She told Socialist Worker, “Wednesday’s strike is another step forward by workers. I hope that we will be joined by all the other unions next time.”

Emily Odoru, another lecturer at the college, added, “It’s vital that public sector workers fight. These inequalities will affect generations to come.”

The strike will have a big impact. It follows the magnificent strike against the pension cuts on 30 November last year.

Longer

But it should have been national and it should have involved more unions. The Tories want millions of public sector workers to work longer, pay more and get less when they retire.

They made minor changes at the end of last year but their current scheme isn’t substantially different. That’s why workers have overwhelmingly rejected the plans and voted for more strikes.

Some 95 percent of NUT members rejected the deal and 73 percent backed more strikes in a recent consultation. In the PCS, 90 percent rejected the deal and 72 percent voted for more strikes.

But union leaders either haven’t called any action or have limited it to London. Many workers feel that union leaders have “stolen” their strike.

In Liverpool, NUT members held an angry meeting the day after the union called the London strike.

They unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in NUT general secretary Christine Blower along with a motion reaffirming their support for a national strike.

PCS union meetings have seen furious exchanges between workers and those on the union’s national executive committee.

Graham Bauckham works at the Land Registry Information Services in Plymouth. He said, “Members are ready to fight the pension changes. They are very disappointed that the PCS seems to have lost all momentum on the matter.”

Max Watson is Unison branch chair at London Met University and is on the union’s national executive.

He said in a personal capacity, “The fight over pensions isn’t over. We must do all we can to rebuild the unity we saw on 30 November.

“I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with workers from the UCU and the NUT unions on the demonstration.”

Workers’ anger partly explains why the dispute isn’t over. There’s a sense that people want a focus for their fury. That’s why London strikers have won such support.

People want to see the Tories knocked back. This week’s strike can play an important part in doing that.


Activists twin with strikers to show support

Union members across Britain who won’t be striking have rushed to organise support for the strikers.

The scale of solidarity reflects the mood to fight.

Pura Ariza is a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, which has twinned with London Met for the strike day.

“We are collecting money to buy strikers breakfast,” she said. “People have been enthusiastic about supporting London. They wanted to use the opportunity to talk to people about the dispute, not just collect money.”

Twenty-one London FE colleges out of 40 are now twinned.

Pura adds that there is a wider mood to fight among workers. She said, “I’ve been to the North West TUC and TUC women’s conference recently.

“I’ve made speeches saying that we need union solidarity—and that solidarity means not crossing picket lines.

“Everyone cheered. There is a lot of anger and it’s not only over pensions, it’s over things like the health bill and the budget too.”

Birmingham teachers have twinned with Lambeth and are sending cards to schools for the strike day.

Kirklees in west Yorkshire has twinned with Hackney while Barnsley and Doncaster are twinned with Southwark.

Anger at the government isn’t restricted to those unions that are striking. Sally Kincaid is Wakefield and District divisional secretary for the NUT. Her area is twinned with Tower Hamlets.

She said, “I’ve had NAHT and NASUWT union members donate to support the strikers. We’re hoping to have lunchtime walkouts at a few schools on the day and hold protests that can get some media attention.”

Demonstrate with the strikers: Assemble 11am, Malet Street, central London to march to the Department for Education


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