Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Striking solidarity

Today hundreds of thousands of workers, mainly from public sector union UNISON, went on strike for a decent living wage. The reports I've seen make it clear that this action has been very well supported. I'd expect tomorrow's support, on the second day of the two day strike, to be just as strong. The solidarity reaches all the way up to Prince Charles, sort of.

Estimates range from between 300,000 and 600,000 workers out on strike (pic shows rally in Sheffield, taken from Indymedia) which is pretty formidable and whilst, we're not talking about prolonged industrial action, a two day strike of this size is a very good thing indeed.

The ultra-amiable Ben Duncan was at the picket line in Brighton, where he is one of the Green Parliamentary candidates, and said;

"Gordon Brown says we all have to tighten our belts in the face of tough economic times – of rising food, housing and transport costs. He says spending money ensuring wages for some of the lowest-paid keep up with inflation will push that inflation still higher. What nonsense.

The reality is the current economic downturn has been caused by an out-of-control banking industry and an over dependence on ever-depleting oil reserves. So, what does the Gov’t do? It spends £50 billion bailing out the banks, and billions more fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to secure oil reserves. Meanwhile, it says we cant afford to take the economic risk of paying public sector workers the same as we did just a few years ago...

And here in Brighton and Hove it’s particularly tough: we live in what has become known as the low-wage capital of the South-East but face some of the highest food and housing costs in the country.

When the Green Party, a few months back, proposed the council pay a living wage of £7 an hour to its lowest paid staff, we learned that this council, in this city, in 2008, pays less than that to 1,150 people. Mostly on casual contracts, we’re talking about cleaners, the lowest grades of library and teaching assistants and stewards at the Brighton Centre, to name just a few. Meanwhile its highest paid managers are taking home six figure salaries."

One of the Green MEPs, Jean Lambert who has been consistently good on trade union issues, supported the strike with these words;

"New research has found that public sector wages are around 30% lower than in the private sector and that is not beneficial for workers or for public services. As the cost of living increases public sector workers should not be expected to suffer disproportionately."
In my neck of the woods, Cambridge, our first Green Councillor Margaret Wright is one of only two councillors supporting the action. The CEN reports "Cllr Margaret Wright and Cllr John Hipkin, who form the Green and Independent Group on the city council, have backed the strike action. Cllr Wright said calls for a 6 per cent pay rise were reasonable." Not one of the Labour Group's eleven councillors willing to support the union that funds their party then.

Meanwhile UNISON activist Cath Elliott on Comment is Free put it like this;
"Take it or leave it" seems to be the attitude coming from the other side of the non-negotiating table. Well thanks, Gordon and co but we're not prepared to do either of those: if you've got anything more productive you'd like to add, come and find us on the picket lines.

1 comment:

Citizen Steve said...

Hi Jim,

Was on the picket at Cambridge Guildhall yesterday and things went pretty well. There were also successful pickets at Mandela House and Shire Hall. 12 GMB members also refused to cross UNISON picket lines in a great show of solidarity despite the advice from their National Office

Had a rally and march in the afternoon which was well supported and had messages of support, including one from Margaret Wright, Green Party councillor. As you said, the Labour Party were conspicuous by their absence. Also failing to show were the Lib-Dems, who were invited after they were seen with a Save Our Post Offices stall on Saturday!! Odd, as thet want to privatise it, but unsurprisingly their committment to the public sector is limited to opportunism.

Unfortunately my camera battery went so I don't have photo's but will have a report up later this afternoon. I'm on my way to the picket line now