Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/382/4310
TUC day of action - reports
Our strength can stop this robbery
THE TUC undoubtedly saw their day of action on pensions on 18 February as a way of 'letting off steam' on the pensions issue.
But members of the public-sector unions in many areas used the day to prepare for more action, especially the strikes that many unions are balloting for.
We print below some of the reports we received.
LEICESTER CITY council's Chief Executive, Rodney Green, could get a £500,000 pay-off from the city's council tax payers according to the Leicester Mercury.
What a kick in the teeth for council workers who have been told they have to work longer, and pay more for their pensions! There is one rule for "them" and another for us!
The ruling Labour group want to get rid of Green in a reorganisation. Yet two years ago he was given £43,000 to stay! The then ruling Liberal/Tory coalition raised his salary by £24,000 a year to £135,000. and gave him a backdated payment totalling £43,000.
At the same time the Liberals and Tories embarked on a massive programme of cuts to council services. Since the "thieves fell out" and Labour took control of the cabinet, the new administration refused to reinstate the cuts that had been made. All three parties are to blame for cuts - and all three are prepared to hand out wads of cash to the bosses.
GMB members at the council photocopied the Leicester Mercury front page and stuck it around the front of the Town Hall on the day of action. One UNISON member said: "It's disgusting. I was trying to work out how many years I would have to work before earning that much, and now they want to cut our pensions!"
Going for a song in Sheffield
THIS SONG, composed by PCS member Robbie Faulds got a laugh when it was sung on the Sheffield demo.
"When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you make me work until I'm sixty-five,
In the hope I won't stay alive?
Health is fading fast, ready to drop,
Will you care I'm at death's door!
'cos didn't you mention, I won't get a pension,
Because I'm only sixty-four!"
HUNDREDS IF not thousands of workers across Greater Manchester took part in the TUC-called day of action against pension cuts. In central Manchester, up to 500 workers rallied in St Peter's Square.
All the speakers slagged off the Labour Party. The best local Labour MP Gerald Kaufman could manage was "we're better than the Tories". 'Not by much' would be most workers' response!
Building for the rally at the town hall annexe in the morning, many workers signed our petition, took our leaflets, and bought the paper. A lively demonstration of hospital workers took place outside Manchester Royal Infirmary in the afternoon, and at other workplaces around the city.
In Bolton around 250 workers from most public-sector unions rallied. Speaker after speaker denounced New Labour. The trades council moved a motion slamming the government, calling for strike action, and for the unions to break with New Labour if the cuts are implemented. To the cheers of the crowd, it was unanimously approved!
The rally then marched to the local Labour MP's office - a twitch of the curtains was all the Labour office could muster.
If the TUC and most union leaders had one-tenth the fighting spirit of their members, the cuts would be dead in the water already. The mood is there for decisive strike action.
IPSWICH HAD a very successful day of action. Firefighters, teachers, local government workers and civil servants came together and leafleted the town and collected signatures on petitions, getting a brilliant response from the public.
At the rally Roger MacKay, Ipswich and District TUC, pointed out that a young teacher of 25 who lived until 84 would be £64,000 worse off as a result of this attack on pensions.
Steve Brinkley, secretary of Suffolk FBU, hoped that it would not be the last time public-sector workers got together.
Reasonable people would not expect firefighters to work until they were 65 but we're not dealing with reasonable people. These changes, if brought in 20 years ago, would have brought a government down. The trade union leaders needed to get off the fence.
Suzanne Williams, secretary of Ipswich Unison, said the average pension for local government workers was £3,800. Two terms in Parliament gave MPs a pension of £13,000, many borough council workers don't even earn £13,000 a year.
Peter Lockhart from the PCS said that civil servants tended to work until they were 62 anyway. A quarter earn less than £15,000 with the average pension being £4,000. The government will save on average £234 million a year from these attacks in the civil service alone.
The government want to get rid of one-fifth of civil servants and make the rest work until 65. His members are being balloted for discontinuous action from 23 March.
SOME STAFF in Lambeth council are so angry over government attacks on public sector pensions that they told their managers they were going on strike on Friday.
Andy Tullis, Lambeth UNISON
In fact Friday (18 February) was a 'day of action' to highlight the pensions issue and prepare for the 23 March strike. But these workers' militant attitude shows the mood for the strike in the workplaces.
Up to 100 Lambeth UNISON, Natfhe, and NUT members linked up with Lambeth Pensioners Action Group (LPAG) to hold a highly effective lunchtime rally on the town hall steps.
Many local trade union leaders spoke of their disgust at New Labour's attacks on our pensions but put forward no programme or call to break with New Labour.
That's probably why our election material for UNISON general secretary candidate, Roger Bannister, went down so well. We explained that Roger was calling for disaffiliation from the Labour Party and the formation of a new workers' party.
One pensioner told me: "If this is what Blair is doing to their members' pensions before the election, what's he going to do to them if he wins it?" Time for a new workers' party!
In The Socialist 26 February 2005: