by Amy Jackson
Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are taking part in a 24-hour strike today across the UK to defend their pensions. The strike goes ahead after union members from PCS, Unite, UCU, NIPSA and RMT overwhelmingly rejected the government’s proposals, saying the changes will leave them paying more and working longer for less in retirement.
Braving the elements on picket lines across the country, the public sector workers on strike today include paramedics, border agency staff, lecturers, MOD staff and civil servants. Lunchtime rallies in support of the strike are planned in major cities over the UK, such as Bristol, London,. Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Swansea. Despite the government dismissing the strike, the unions are determined to get their message across to the government. They will not work longer, pay more, and get less, in order to pay for a crisis they did not create.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The early signs are that our strike is being very well supported across the UK. Our members do not take strike action lightly but, faced with severe attacks on their pensions, pay, jobs and communities they have no choice but to defend what they and their families have worked to create for generations.
“Ministers are making unpopular, unnecessary and unfair cuts to the livelihoods of public servants to pay off a deficit caused by greed and recklessness in the financial sector, and for more than 12 months have refused to negotiate on the key issues of paying more and working longer for a worse pension.”
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘College and university staff are already seeing the impact of the government’s pension changes on their pay packets and will lose hundreds of pounds every year in return for reduced pensions when they retire. It is simply not fair for ordinary families to be bearing the brunt of the government’s cuts while those at the top get tax cuts.’
Unite’s Assistant General Secretary, Gail Cartmail said: “Tomorrow’s industrial action will build on the high level of anger that was on display during the 30 November strikes.
“George Osborne’s austerity plans are beginning to sicken everyone. A ‘work until you drop’ culture in this country is not because people want teachers, nurses, firemen struggling at work into their 70s. It is because Osborne has ordained that this is the way to get ordinary people to carry the heaviest burden. It is another attack on living standards and will make the UK, a miserable and socially divided island in which to live.”
Refusing to take the strike seriously, Conservative Party chairman Lady Warsi told BBC News that workers were being asked to ”work a little bit longer and to pay a bit more but they will be guaranteed a pension which is index-linked and inflation proof”.
“I’m disappointed that a handful of unions are striving to carry on with union action which is going to benefit no-one and is going to inconvenience the public.”
Alongside the strike, 20,000 off-duty policemen are marching through London in protest against cuts and privatisation. The first 16,000 will be wearing black caps to represent each job in the police force that is being lost.
Left Out sends its solidarity to all striking workers today, and we’d love to hear from you! Send us a message to email@example.com, or drop us a tweet to @leftoutblog. Leave your message of solidarity in the comments area below.