Socialist Worker

Politics features on picket lines across London

Issue No. 1994

illustration by Leon Kuhn

illustration by Leon Kuhn

In the east London borough of Newham, “over 400 people picketed, mainly people who were involved in the strike but also firefighters and people from the university who came to support us,” reports council worker Elane Heffernan. “The day before the strike 40 people joined the union to be part of the action.

“At the dust depot around 100 people were on the picket and the whole place shut – even the agency drivers stopped.

“The picket lines were really political, with people talking seriously about where the action should go next, about political representation in the borough, the council elections and Respect.

“A Labour MP came to speak to the picket and people were saying that they don’t understand why the unions still fund the Labour Party.

Adam Smith writes that at Ealing town hall in west London there were over 60 people picketing. “They were members of Unison and the GMB unions from the housing and benefits offices, joined by teaching assistants from one of over 30 schools closed in the area.

Tower Hamlets council, east London, “was very solid with most housing and frontline offices closed,” says John McLoughlin, “as well as more schools than ever before.

“It was a wonderful experience. Low paid women are really leading this strike.

“Members even came out where notice of a strike had not been served.”

Westminster city hall was eerily silent, nobody turned up,” says Rahul Patel. “At the Marylebone Road site only three staff went in out of 300 workers.

“Some 30 schools closed including the one Tony Blair’s son, Leo, attends. City West Homes, the headquarters of the privatised Almo housing service was closed – it shares a building with the French embassy.

Rachel Eborall adds, “Teachers joined a dozen Unison members picketing North Westminster Community school’s Penfold Street site.

“All the school’s sites closed for the day – the first time the school has closed because of strike action. Respect council candidate Yvonne Ridley joined pickets.

In Camden, north London, says Phoebe Watkins, “All schools were closed as was the building department. This was the best turnout for Unison ever in Camden. We had lots of support from pensioners and other workers.

“The day was really successful, but we would have liked a London wide demonstration to bring strikers together.”

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