|Marching through London on Wednesday|
by Daphne Liddle
MILLIONS of workers last Wednesday took part in a historic national strike that closed 21,000 schools as well as thousands of libraries, council offices, parks, courts, job centres, benefit offices and other government offices. And many thousands more workplaces were closed or seriously affected by industrial action throughout the UK.
Hospitals remained open for emergencies and essential care of in-patients but all other work was off for the day.
Unions estimate that around two-and-a-half million public sector workers took strike action, making it the largest strike in terms of numbers in Britain ever.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “I have been to pickets around central London and spirits are sky high with many other unions besides PCS out on strike.
“People should be very proud of the stand they are making today in contrast to the shame of the Government.
“Public sector workers have come together today to show their united opposition to the government’s prolonged and concerted attacks on their pensions, jobs and communities.”
Many workers sent their message to the Government by simply staying at home but throughout the country hundreds of thousands took part in over 1,000 local marches and rallies, with bigger marches in all major towns and cities. For many it was the first industrial or political action they had ever been involved in.
The Con-Dem Coalition cannot now possibly say that the opposition to their cuts and their robbery of public sector pensions is down just to a few “militant union leaders itching for a fight”.
When he launched that remark last week, Education Secretary Michael Gove had it the wrong way round. Some of the union leaders would have preferred a quiet life; the pressure for this action has come from the rank and file. But the leaders are now shaping up to the battle that has landed on them.
It is important now that the unions carry on the momentum and start preparing for the next strike. It should not be hard; the morale on today’s well attended picket lines was very high and the Chancellor George Osborne has added to the workers’ anger by promising a one-per cent cap on their pay rises — after a two year freeze, while inflation is around five per cent — and hundreds of thousands more job cuts in his vain efforts to balance his books.
This strike has hit the Government and a lot harder that it expected but it will not fall or back off yet. More strikes, more rallies, meetings and pickets are needed. But now the workers know their fight is effective and they can win.
This confidence is what will win the war against capitalism.
This strike could also go down in history as the first really big national strike where most of the strikers, pickets and marchers were women. The working women of Britain are no longer submissive and lacking in confidence.One Unison picket in south London said she had told two children on the picket line with their mother: “You may not believe it now but in years to come when you are grown up and people still talk about the great public sector pension strike, you will be able to say, ‘I was there, at the strike rally at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’.”