Category Archives: strike
Doctors are facing the same pension cuts as other public sector workers – pay more and work longer to get less. This attack serves two purposes – it allows them to cut pay, without having to say they are cutting pay and it softens the NHS (and other public services) up for privatisation. The money saved will not go into the pension pots, despite the language the government uses about how pensions are unsustainable and we have to work longer, but will go to paying off the deficit caused by the bankers.
Hospitals will still have skeleton staff to deal with emergencies – in fact there will be more doctors on duty today then there were over the Jubilee weekend or on a normal nightshift. Doctors and other NHS workers do not go on strike lightly, nor would they do so if they thought they were endangering patient’s health. This is the first doctors strike for 37 years.
Being a doctor is a difficult job, because medical research advances so quickly, with new techniques and medicines being developed all the time, and thousands of medical trials conducted every year. This is a particular issue for GPs who need to keep a shallow but general knowledge of all areas of medicine. As we get older, we find it harder to incorporate new ideas and practices into our lives, and get used to the ways we have done things. Making doctors work later to get their pensions could have serious knock on effects on patient care.
Meanwhile, at the University of Birmingham, support staff are on a two-day strike, over a derisory pay offer, which has seen just 77 of over 2,000 staff offered a £250 / 1.9% pay rise, whilst removing shift allowances for evening and weekend work which leaves many people facing a pay cut. Even those who will get a rise will see their wages fall in real terms as inflation which has fallen below 3% for the first time in a few years.
This comes in the context of the university increasing its surplus from £22.3m to £27m per year, and is in a healthy financial position, despite cuts to teaching budgets from central government funds which are being used as cover for reducing the living standards of some of the lowest paid staff at the university, whilst the Vice-Chancellor, David Eastwood enjoys huge pay rises and a salary of over £400,000.
You can support the University strikers by signing this petition.
Both these groups are taking action today against the government austerity program which threatens to send many more people below the breadline, with real wages being reduced further, the continuing threat of workfare and the abuse of apprenticeships to undercut minimum wage legislation.
We extend our solidarity to those workers on strike today, and encourage all other workers who are facing cuts to pay or conditions to push their union to take strike action.
In Birmingham, around 150 Unite, PCS and UCU members went from their picket lines to a small demonstration led by Unite health workers at the QE Hospital, which was followed by an indoor rally, with speakers from the unions involved in Birmingham, and the Midlands TUC.
Videos of the rally are available to watch here
Sian Ruddick, PCS, chair of meeting
Today is important, we’re proving to the government that we haven’t gone away, we are fighting and we will continue to fight them until we win
Lee Baron, Midlands TUC
[CWU members] will have refused to cross the picket lines that so many of your members were on this morning, when we do that, we break the law, we’re not allowed to do it. But we work on a fairly simple principle – that we’d rather break that law than break your picket lines any day of the week
Frank Keogh, Chair of Unite Health Sector
We don’t think this is fair for our health sector workers … to pay more, work longer and get less
It’s about patient services, it’s about making sure we can still recruit and retain the best people in the health sector to deliver patient services to our communities
Kathy Taylor, President Elect UCU
The facts are that our pension scheme is healthy, it’s sustainable. Public sector pension costs are going down. The actual facts are that this government was not carrying out reform, this governments intention is to actually bring the whole public service pension down. Their intention is to rob us of our members money in order to compensate for the financial irresponsiblity and the bankers chaos that we are facing.
Dave Bean, Vice President PCS
It’s also about privatisation. The treasury minister, Danny Alexander, told parliament that he was cutting our pensions to make them substantially more affordable to alternative providers … that is why they are attacking our pensions to make them cheaper for private industry to come and take our jobs off us.
Emma, Disabled People Against Cuts
We’re fighting at the moment against a huge onslaught of cuts against disabled people. By the age of 65, one in two of you will be covered by the disability discrimination act … we’re hoping that by standing with the public service unions and by standing with you in all of this that you’ll come and support us in return next time we are fighting against another swinging cut to our disability living allowance, to our health care, our social care and so on and so forth
I’m bringing solidarity from the National Union of Teachers … your strike today is keeping the struggle against what the tories are doing over pensions and public services in general alive
The NHS is the most visible drive towards privatisation, with education not far behind. The cuts sweeping local government are not simply the effect of the recession, but an attempt to abolish large areas of public services.
The restructuring of public sector pensions has seen significant resistance, with 750,000 on strike on June 30th and 2,500,000 on November 30th. These 2 days of strikes forced some concessions from
the government, and some unions seized the opportunity to withdraw from future action while negotiations continue. Meanwhile the NUT, PCS and UCU have called a strike on March 28th which will see approaching 1,000,000 on strike.
A serious debate is raging in the trade union movement – how far can we go in resisting the government? Will strikes win further concessions?
The experience from the last week, and from 40 years ago, indicate that determined and militant action can win.
For the last 6 months electricians and construction workers have organised pickets at construction sites around Britain. They have been campaigning against the introduction of a new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) by 7 major construction companies of which Balfour Beatty is the largest. The BESNA would see de-skilling and wage cuts of up to 35% for hundreds of workers.
Every Wednesday morning construction sites from Glasgow to London have been picketed and blockaded by rank and file sparks and their supporters. Hundreds have joined the pickets. Oxford Street has been blocked during the rush hour and last week Park Lane was blocked by sparks protesting outside the Electrical Contractors Association annual dinner.
UNITE the union called a ballot of its members in Balfour Beatty in November. After they returned an 81% vote for strike action Balfour Beatty used a legal challenge to the ballot to nullify it.
In January UNITE re-balloted and their members voted to strike again. Once again Balfour Beatty raised a legal challenge to the ballot but last week a judge threw out the challenge. As the sparks
prepared for a strike Balfour Beatty threw in the towel and abandoned BESNA. Both rank and file sparks and the UNITE leadership are now calling on the remaining 6 companies to abandon BESNA, or face the consequences.
This victory come almost exactly 40 years after the Battle of Saltley Gate, where 30,000 Birmingham engineers struck in support of striking miners, and 10,000 of them marched to reinforce 2,000 miners who were picketing Saltley Coking Works, forcing the police to close the gates and effectively securing victory for the miners.
On Friday 10th February 2012 Birmingham Trades Union Council organised an anniversary rally to celebrate the anniversary. Arthur Scargill spoke at the rally alongside former Yorkshire NUM leader
Ken Capstick, Bob Crow general secretary of the RMT, Tony Burke UNITE assistant general secretary and Norman Goodwin, who had been an engineer and took part in the Battle of Saltley Gate.
With Britain no longer able to claim to be the ‘workshop of the world’ big business and successive Tory and Labour governments tried to make the workers foot the bill with pay restraint. The Tory
government felt that the miners, who hadn’t had a national strike since the defeat of the General Strike in 1926, who be easy to beat.
They hadn’t bargained for 2 things.
Firstly the miners, in particular the Yorkshire miners led by Arthur Scargill and others in the Barnsley Forum, sent out flying pickets from the beginning of the strike. Up to 60,000 miners were involved in picketing 500 key facilities – power stations, docks, coking works.
Secondly the solidarity that was delivered by other unions. Rail workers, unionised lorry drivers and power workers refused to touch coal or any replacement fuels.
Saltley Coking Works was soon the only plant in the country supplying significant coal supplies to industry.
Up to 2,000 miners from the Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales began picketing. 800 police were mobilised for several days to keep the gates at Saltley open.
Arthur Scargill spoke to the Birmingham East AUEW shop stewards and the National Union of Vehicle Builders. Both agreed to call their members out on strike on the 10th.
By 11am 30,000 Birmingham engineers were on strike and 10,000 joined the picketing miners. The police were overwhelmed and forced to close the gates. It was a massive victory for militant action
We face difficult times. One of the most crucial cuts both the public and private sector are trying to make is labour costs. Both by redundancies and wage restraint workers wages are increasingly under pressure.
There is widespread anger with the government and huge sympathy for anyone who resists them.
The lesson from Saltley Gate 40 years ago, and the sparks last week, is that determined and militant action is the key to victory.