Home > Anti-Cuts Movement, Strike! > Our Strike: Government must now listen

Our Strike: Government must now listen

The Rally in WestminsterYesterday our Branch of PCS, along with the entire union and members of several teaching unions, took a day of strike action over pensions, job cuts, pay freezes, redundancy terms and other terms and conditions.  The strike was an immense success in terms of turnout not just in our Branch but across the sectors involved.  Branch Sec assesses the day and the what it might hold.

I’ve organised a number of pickets over the years and whilst you always hope a strike will be solid, until the day you can never really be sure.  I arrived at Globe House yesterday morning at 7am to find our banner and placards already being put on display.  Over the course of the next few hours PCS reps and members turned up in great numbers to man the picket lines at the building and ensured that the UK knew that we were on strike and exactly why.  I don’t think we’ve ever had such a strong turnout for a strike.

A number of the usual strike breakers entered the building.  These are people who tend not to be in the union and think they’re doing the right thing by just looking after their own interests by getting a days pay now and not thinking about the wider picture.  On the whole though PCS members stayed away.  There were some people who crossed the picket line and I want them to come out with us next time because yesterday was a success for us all.  In Globe House passport production was down yesterday by 90% on the normal figures.  In the interview office as far as we are aware no Interview Officers came into work meaning that managers had to conduct interviews with the Office Manager sitting on reception.  Only one booth instead of the usual 18 or so were open for business.  The strike therefore had a huge impact.

The government came out early yesterday with its rhetoric on public pensions being unaffordable.  This has been a lie from the start but yesterday (finally) the major broadcasters caught onto the fact that it is a lie.  The Hutton Report states clearly that over the next 2 decades public sector pensions are going to become more affordable for the government.  They also came out early to state that the strike wasn’t as big as the unions had predicted.  By the evening the major news corporations had showed picket lines across the country and demonstrations from Exeter, York, Manchester, (insert city – they were happening everywhere!).  In London on a weekday we saw tens of thousands of people march to Westminster culminating in a rally that could house only 3000 of them.  Many of the marchers were from public sector unions.  The government had also claimed that it was only the ‘radical’ unions interested in the issue.  I saw hundreds of UNISON and UNITE flags at the march yesterday and you will have also if you watched the evening news.  On top of that you can hardly call the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) radical when this was the first time they had ever been on strike in their 127 year history.

By the end of the evening it was clear that the strike was solid and had  overwhelmed our lords and masters.  Francis Maude, the multi-millionaire mouthpiece of drivel at the Cabinet Office was due to appear on the Channel 4 News at 7pm but suddenly pulled out with 5 minutes to go and hasn’t been heard of since.  The government failed to put anyone on the programme so it was left to our General Secretary, Mark Serwotka to explain what had really happened in the day.  Maude’s bull had clearly caught up with him and as he went running for cover I suspect the government is re-grouping for another attack.  This is likely to be along the lines that our pensions are unfair because they’re better than those in the private sector.  What’s unfair is that private sector workers have had their schemes attacked ahead of us and they deserve better.  All working people deserve better.

I hope that the government actually starts to use the negotiations set up over pensions to change their stance.  Members in the Identity and Passport Service in London and the South proved yesterday that strikes can change things.  We’ve won the argument.  Now we need to win the battle and we need to be prepared to build on yesterday.  The government and our senior managers should not be in any doubt about this: attack us and we will fight back – ultimately we will defeat them.


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