Sunday, 3 July 2011

Salford Workers Strike Against Government Attacks

On 30th June, teachers, lecturers and civil servants across Salford took industrial action to defend their pension schemes, their jobs and the services they provide. Nationally, the PCS, UCU, NUT and ATL staged the widest industrial action to have faced the ConDem Government yet. Across the country 6,000 schools were closed for the day, with another 5,000 only partially open. Salford Against the Cuts was proud to support them.

As we explained in last month's newsletter, we see the trade unions as having a key role in challenging this Government's cuts agenda. The ultimate power of any worker is their ability to withdraw their labour. When we don't work nothing gets done and the Government - and more importantly, we ourselves - are reminded of who this country depends upon the most. For 364 days of the year, these workers are disregarded, told they don't matter and expected to live on less money with worse terms and conditions. Yet, when they strike they are accused of holding the country to ransom by preventing the delivery of "vital services". Well if these services are so "vital" why not reward those who provide them properly. Would any of us really notice if stock brokers went on strike for a day??

Of course, we do not believe that unions should simply focus on issues that directly affect their members - we believe they have a valuable role to play in standing up for services and working class communities. The trade unionists we spoke to felt the same way. One PCS worker, we met on the picket line, told us "we will not be ashamed of ourselves because we are prepared to fight for a decent retirement, free from poverty, but we see this action as about more than that. It is about saying to the Government that ordinary people should not be forced to pay for a crisis we didn't create. We should not have to see our pensions cut, but nor should we have to see our libraries, our youth centres or our care homes close. We fought to get those things in the past and now we have to fight to keep them."

Many SAC supporters visited the picket lines before work and attended the 5000 strong Strike Rally in Manchester City Centre in the early afternoon. In the evening we jointly hosted a Fundraiser with Salford Trades Council at Saffron Restaurant on Cheetham Hill Road to raise awareness of the dispute, raise some cash and provide everybody, particularly those who had been on strike with a good evening. 

We began the evening with a few speeches from those who had taken action on the day. Jane Warburton, PCS member with HM Revenue & Customs and Chair of PCS North West Young Members Network rightly explained how the Government were misleading the public about the cost of public sector pensions. As PCS General Secretary, Mark Serwotka had been explaining on the news all day, public sector pensions are set to get more affordable than they are now, not more expensive. Once again, we were seeing the ConDems confusing their own selfish ideology with economic facts. Roy Wilkes, NUT Rep at Prestwich Arts College talked of the need to broaden the action so that the Government is faced with even more workers resisting their attacks in Autumn. Finally, Clayton Doyle of the Anti-Academies Alliance talked of the need to link industrial action with the fight against the privatisation of education. 

We then ate some of Saffron's wonderful food and were treated to a fantastic performance from Mississippi Soulman Malcolm McBride. Everybody had a fantastic evening and we were able to raise £150 to split between SAC and Street Meet, a charity that provides food and support to homeless people in Manchester. Special thanks go to Saffron owner Adeeb for allowing us to use his lovely restaurant for the evening and for not making a penny out of the whole event! 

SAC will continue to support anybody or any group that is committed to fighting the cuts. The next time the workers feel they need to take to the picket lines we'll be with them!

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