Up to two million public sector workers on strike this week
This Wednesday (30 November) will see up to two million public sector workers including teachers, nurses, probation officers, civil servants, cleaners, paramedics and dinner ladies taking part in the TUC day of action in what could be the biggest strike in a generation.
Some 30 unions have balloted their members for action over government plans to change their pensions – some haven’t taken strike action in more than a decade, others have never balloted their members before.
In the run up to the day of action, 23 TUC-affiliated unions and 7 non-affiliates sought mandates for action from their members. The TUC says this is likely to be the biggest union mobilisation in over 30 years (you have to go back to 22 January 1979 when 1.5 million public sector workers went on strike over their pay to find a comparable figure for those involved in an industrial dispute).
Across the UK there will be hundreds of rallies and marches taking place in town and city centres, as well as workplace vigils and lunchtime meetings. The day is expected to see picket lines in numerous workplaces including schools, jobcentres, the Mersey Tunnels, Metro stations in Newcastle, town halls, libraries, hospitals and health clinics.
Across the health service emergency cover arrangements have been made locally and members of three of the health unions not in the TUC – the BMA, RCM and RCN – who have not balloted their members for action will also be showing support for their striking colleagues on the day.
And across the Atlantic nurses in the US will be showing their support on Wednesday for striking public sector workers in the UK. Members of the union National Nurses United will be leading protests outside the British Embassy in Washington and at five British consulates in Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will be visiting a North London mental health unit where occupational therapists, admin workers and community psychiatric nurses will be forming a picket line from 7am. Brendan will be at the St Pancras Hospital in Mornington Crescent (4 St Pancras Way, London NW1 OPE) from approximately 8am.
Brendan will then head to Birmingham for a rally at the Birmingham Indoor Arena which will be addressed by UNISON and NASUWT general secretaries Dave Prentis and Chris Keates, as well as by public sector workers from across the West Midlands. The rally takes place from around 1.30-3pm. Before speaking at the rally Brendan will visit a number of picket lines in the centre of the city including one at the City Hospital (at around noon).
TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady will spend the morning visiting picket lines staffed by NHS staff at St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster and by local government workers based at City Hall. She will then join a march organised by the TUC’s London region which leaves Lincoln’s Inn Fields at 1pm and heads for a rally on the Victoria Embankment, at which public sector workers from across the capital will speak from 2pm.
Other events planned across the UK include:
- In the East Midlands there will be a march in Nottingham, leaving the Forest Recreation Ground at 11.30am for a rally at 12.30pm at the city’s Albert Hall.
- The TUC’s Yorkshire and the Humber region is behind four events in Bradford (rally 11am, Centenary Square), Hull (11am rally in Queen Victoria Square), Leeds (rally at noon outside the Art Gallery, 74 The Headrow) and Sheffield (noon rally at Barkers Pool, City Hall).
- In Newcastle there will be a march leaving Gateshead Civic Centre at 11.30am to head to a rally where speakers include TUC Northern Regional Secretary Kevin Rowan and RMT General Secretary Bob Crow (approx 12.30pm at Spillers Wharf in Newcastle).
- There are many events in the South West including a march in Exeter which assembles at 11.30am on Cathedral Green before heading to a rally at 12.30pm in the city’s St James Park football ground. There’s also a march in Bristol from College Green (11.30am) to Castle Park for a 12.30pm rally and another in Plymouth when at 11am public sector workers will gather outside the Guildhall before marching to the Holiday Inn, Armada Way, for a rally at 1pm. GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny will also be visiting various picket lines and speaking at a rally in Gloucester.
- Action in the North West will culminate in “One Noise at One” when protesters will be encouraged to make as much noise as possible by clapping, cheering, honking horns, and blowing vuvuzelas at 1pm. Earlier public sector workers in Liverpool will have marched from the Pier Head in Derby Square to a rally at St George’s Plateau. In Manchester an 11.30am march leaves Liverpool Road (off Deansgate) en route to a 12.30pm rally at Whitworth Park at which the speakers include ATL General Secretary Mary Bousted.
- In Wales a march featuring an New Orleans Marching Band will leave Cardiff City Hall at noon for a final destination of the SWALEC stadium and a rally at 1pm.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The public sector workers taking part in Wednesday’s dispute feel a deep sense of frustration at the government’s triple assault on their pensions:
- They are being told they will have to pay a lot more into their pensions at a time when their pay has been frozen for two years. This money will not contribute to the pension pot, but will be used to reduce a deficit that public sector staff did nothing to cause. Public sector workers see it as a tax on them to make up for the bankers’ bonus tax which the Chancellor cancelled.
- Without any negotiation, the government decided to change the indexation method for pensions – from the RPI to the CPI inflation measure, wiping 15 per cent off the value of public sector pensions at a stroke.
- Changes to pension schemes will mean that people will need to work up to eight years longer to get a full pension. This all means that public sector workers will pay a lot more and have to work longer to get a pension that fails to keep up with prices.
- Media wishing to broadcast from the Birmingham International Arena should contact Tony Hayes email@example.com or 0121 644 7006.
- An opinion poll commissioned by BBC News suggests 61 per cent of people believe public sector workers are justified in going on strike over pension changes.
- The unions taking part in action on Wednesday are Association of Educational Psychologists, Aspect, Association of Headteachers and Deputies in Scotland, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Educational Institute of Scotland, FDA, GMB, Irish National Teachers Organisation, ISU (Immigration Service Union), National Association of Headteachers, Napo (The Trade Union and Professional Association for Family Court and Probation Staff), NASUWT, NIPSA – Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, National Union of Teachers, Public and Commercial Services Union, POA, Prospect, RMT (National Association of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, SIPTU – Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union, Society of Radiographers, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, UCAC (Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru), UCATT - Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians, University and College Union, Ulster Teachers’ Union*, Unison and Unite (*taking action short of a strike).
- Public sector workers taking place in Wednesday’s action include teachers, head teachers, teaching assistants, lecturers, educational psychologists, civil servants, border agency staff, probation officers, radiographers, nurses, library assistants, librarians, job centre staff, courts staff, Tyne and Wear Metro staff, chiropodists, podiatrists, social workers, care assistants, home help, refuse collectors, midwives, physiotherapists, nursery nurses, special needs assistants, road sweepers, cleaners, school meals staff, paramedics, housing officers, environmental health officers, school crossing patrol attendants, museum curators/gallery assistants, archivists, tax inspectors, customs officers, passport office staff, health and safety inspectors, police community support officers, police civilian staff, driving test examiners, waste water network performance technicians, ambulance staff, marine surveyors, patent officers, and health and safety inspectors.
- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
- For more on the day of action visit www.pensionsjustice.org.uk
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