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November 30: Our day to smash the Tories

This article is over 12 years, 7 months old
The ballots are out for what is set to be the biggest day of strikes for generations. Public sector workers explain how they are building for a yes vote
Issue 2275
Brett Davis
Brett Davis

Over a million workers are entering the final week of their vote on whether to join the mass strike on 30 November.

The Unison union is balloting some 1.1 million members—the largest strike ballot in British trade union history.

Unison’s ballot closes on Friday of next week. That means there are just days left to build the biggest possible yes vote.

But as one ballot ends, two more begin. Ballot papers went out to 250,000 Unite union members in the public sector on Monday of this week.

And the GMB union’s ballot begins on Monday of next week. Both close in mid-November. The UCU, PCS, NUT and ATL unions all have live ballots.

Meanwhile yet more unions are signing up for the 30 November day of action. Ucatt, the construction workers’ union, is the latest to announce its intention to join the strikes.

Ucatt will ballot thousands of building workers across some 500 employers.

But unfortunately the FBU firefighters’ union has decided to drop out of the 30 November action after the government agreed to further talks.

“Members expect industrial action to be taken as a last resort and when further negotiation is futile,” the FBU’s executive council said. “Our conclusion at this time is that such a point has not been reached.”

For more on the FBU go to It’s a mistake not to ballot firefighters now

Oxford getting set

Trade unionists across Oxford are going all out to build for the 30 November strikes, writes Julie Simmons.

We now have a joint union mobilising committee that meets every two weeks.

We’re asking those unions not on strike to show solidarity by giving money to our hardship funds. We’re organising bucket collections at the gates of the BMW plant.

We can’t leave the fight to the leaders of the unions. Just look at Brendan Barber having secret talks with the Tories. We need to build among all those who want to fight to win.

That’s why we are sending delegations to the Unite the Resistance convention. We’ve booked 17 delegates already.

The convenor at BMW is building for the convention. Already 11 workers have said they’re interested in coming. And GMB Banbury No 1 branch is organising a delegation too.

Brett Davis, Ministry of Defence worker in Unite

I’m voting yes because we need to stop these Tories. It’s not just about pensions—they’re out to push us back decades in our terms and conditions.

We need to stand together to stop them.

Gwyneth Powell-Davies, NHS worker and Unite branch secretary

The government wants to completely dismantle public services—including the NHS where I work—so it’s really important that we strike. This is only the beginning.

Karen Tyre, Vale of Glamorgan Unison

It’s crucial we vote yes to defend our pensions. It’s an absolute disgrace that a cabinet of multimillionaires believes public sector workers don’t deserve to retire with dignity.

They want to make us cheaper to sell off to privatise companies. That’s the agenda behind this.

We have to mobilise from the ground upwards and galvanise the people around us. It’s about getting rid of this government.

Niaz Faiz, PCS

We need to stop the government-imposed cuts and austerity programme. We need to protect previous generations’ gains. That way future generations can carry on with the benefits and rights we have.

We didn’t cause this crisis—but we’re footing the bill. Why don’t bankers pick up the tab? Why doesn’t the government collect more tax from Vodafone or Boots?

The mood is getting more and more angry. The penny is starting to drop. N30 can be the trigger for a growth in militancy that takes on a life of its own.

Luke Henderson, Edinburgh Unison

The 50 percent contribution increases aren’t being applied to council workers in Scotland, so the issue is trickier for us.

The threat of action made the Scottish government back off a bit. But three of the four attacks are still happening here. We’re still threatened with the increased retirement age, the CPI to RPI change, and the move towards career average schemes.

We’re saying we should strike in solidarity. We need to fight this together.

Mark Campbell, UCU executive member and rep at London Metropolitan university

The 30 November action could be the single most important day of united strikes seen in Britain since the 1926 general strike.

It is vital that every union member, student and community activist does all they can between now and then to ensure that possibility is realised.

We want to put this Tory-led coalition on the back foot and make sure their public sector cuts are resisted—and defeated.

Jane Hindle, Derbyshire Unison

Some officials argue in quite a sectional way that our pension scheme is OK at least. But it’s not about whether pensions have been invested wisely—it’s about the banks and all that.

Having other unions at meetings makes a big difference. At one, we had a firefighter, a civil servant and an NHS worker. It makes it feel like it’s a much bigger movement.

Maggie Falshaw, NHS worker

I’ve worked all my life, and I’m 61. I’ll now be paying more into my pension scheme. I had a contract with the government and now that they’ve reneged on that. They just tore it up without negotiation.

We can’t fight on our own. You may win some small dispute that way, but they’re attacking all of us. We’re all being attacked and we have to all fight back together.

West London activists rally

Trade unionists and activists from across west London came together for a Unite the Resistance meeting in Ealing town hall last Wednesday.

Over 100 people came to the meeting, with a broad spectrum of trade unions and campaign groups represented.

Mary Lancaster, branch secretary of Ealing Unison, chaired the meeting.

“We have called this rally to build unity,” she said. She talked about the “unprecedented” situation, adding, “We haven’t had a strike at this level since 1926.”

NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney also spoke at the meeting. “Our movement was reborn on 30 June. And that was just with four unions going on strike.

“30 November is a chance for that rebirth to become something much bigger.”

Goldsmiths student Jas Blackwell-Pal explained about the threat from the education white paper. “It’s incredible how something that sounds so boring can be so dangerous,” she said.

And she called on students to join the picket lines on 30 November—“At Goldsmiths we want to see hundreds standing there.”

Representatives from the GMB and FBU unions, the National Pensioners Convention and left wing Labour MP John McDonnell also spoke.

Zita Holbourne of the PCS union and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts called for the biggest possible turnout for the Unite the Resistance national convention on 19 November.

The meeting closed by unanimously passing a motion backing the convention and the 30 November strikes as well as the Occupy London camp.

Scottish housing association workers

Scottish housing association workers in the Unite union are backing the 19 November Unite the Resistance convention, writes Dave Sherry.

Last week a special meeting of shop stewards representing over 30 housing offices called on Unite to include us in the ballot to strike on 30 November. The meeting also voted unanimously to support the convention and to send ten delegates on 19 November.

For our members, N30 is only the start. The battle is not just about pensions but also the savage cuts in social housing provision and the reduction in the services we provide.

For that reason we need to join forces with all the other groups getting ready to fight.

Anne Drinkell, community nurse and Unison rep

I’ve worked in the NHS for 33 years. But the last time I was on strike was 1988—and I’m one of the few people in my workplace who’s ever been on strike.

On the day they talked about the pensions ballot, loads of people came up to me and asked “When are we going on strike?” as if it was just like that. Half of them weren’t even in any union. That shows the potential—but also the scale of the challenge.

Generally in health, and where I work, there isn’t fantastic union organisation. Where we have got workplace reps, a lot of them haven’t had experience of doing this sort of thing before.

It’s an opportunity to rebuild our unions. We can’t take it for granted that there will be a yes vote. We have to go round workplaces and really take time to go through it all with people. The clock’s ticking.

Frank Wood, healthcare scientist at King’s College Hospital and Unite member

I’m voting yes because I was supposed to retire when I reached 60—but the changes would mean I couldn’t retire until I reached 66.

I can’t see myself doing an extra six years in what is already a very demanding and stressful job.

Ben Drake, York City Unison

I’m voting yes because the pension cuts are daylight robbery, pure and simple.

Not one penny will go into the pension funds—all of it goes into the deficit. Nor should our private sector colleagues be fooled that cutting public pensions will add a penny to their pension pot. It’s about divide and rule. We mustn’t fall for it—we need decent pensions for all.

Helen Davies, Barnet Unison

This is our chance to make history. It is the best opportunity we’ve been given to demonstrate that the majority of people won’t accept workers and the poor paying for the crisis.

It will put the public services we all use and benefit from at the centre of the agenda.

If you don’t want billionaires dipping into your pocket and robbing you of your wages, you need to vote yes.

Marianne Owens, PCS

We’re going on strike for second time this year. There’s attacks on our pensions but also the pay freeze. We’ve lost lots of offices and jobs already where I work.

Lots of people are in great financial difficulties. People were already cutting back on “luxuries”. But now there’s nothing left to cut back on.

The 26 March demo proved we could be united. If we show the strength of our class in united action we can bring this government down.

Kath Jennings, NHS ambulance worker

I’m voting yes because I think it’s unfair that the government want us to pay for the crisis.

The extra money the Tories want to take from our pensions will go straight to the treasury to pay for the bankers’ crisis.

When schools and hospitals need extra cash they say you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it. We don’t get any gold-plated handouts. Yet the banks have money printed for them.

Sarah Murdock, PCS

The 30 June strikes were just the beginning. We need to unite to tell the government that public services are vitally important and are not for sale.

We need to protect our pensions, pay and jobs. The Conservatives and Lib Dems think they can get away with their attacks—but united trade union action can win. They’re a nasty government, but also a weak one.

Now is the time for every trade unionist to fight against every cut.

Who’s balloting and when?

Around three million workers are set to go on strike on 30 November. Here’s a guide to some of the latest union ballot timetables.

  • Unison Ballot papers are already out, voting ends on 3 November
  • Unite Ballot papers are already out, voting ends mid-November
  • Prospect Ballot will run from

    24 October to 14 November

  • FDA Ballot over pensions begins on 24 October
  • GMB Ballot opens on 31 October, ends 16 November
  • NASUWT Ballot on pensions and conditions opens 4 November, ends 17 November

All speakers were interviewed in a personal capacity

Unite the Resistance
30 November strikes

Saturday 19 November, 10am to 5pm
Royal Horticultural Halls, 80 Vincent Square,

London SW1P 2PE Tickets £5 waged/£2 unwaged

  • Get your union branch to sponsor the convention
  • Bring a delgation and sign up now. Go to or email [email protected]
Maggie Falshaw
Maggie Falshaw
Niaz Faiz
Niaz Faiz

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