Why We Need Regular Protests Against the Coalition Government’s Brutal Ideological Cuts

So I was on the streets of London yesterday, after joining my wife, my son and three of his friends, whose school was closed for the day, as well as other friends and teachers from my son’s school (who even had a banner!) on a march from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to Methodist Central Hall, via the Strand and Whitehall. It was a lovely sunny day, and the children looked wonderful, blowing whistles, plastered with National Union of Teachers (NUT) stickers, wearing T-shirts provided by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and also waving flags from the University and College Union (UCU) and Lewisham People Before Profit. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers were on strike, from the three unions above, plus the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), whose members were on a national strike for the first time since 1979, and the march and rally in London was attended by at least 30,00 people.

This was something of a family affair for me, as my wife is a UCU member, some of our very good friends are teachers, and, of course, we know other university lecturers and have, over the last seven years that my son has been at primary and junior school, got to know all his teachers. However, I would have been there in solidarity even if the strike had not involved anyone I knew, for two reasons: firstly, because the argument about pensions is actually part of an ideological struggle between the government and the unions, in which the government, to be blunt, is not to be trusted; and secondly, because yesterday’s strike actions were part of a wider desire for protests against the government — for their arrogance, their incompetence, and the savage reach of their entire programme for wrecking the state and privatising whatever hasn’t already been privatised under Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, as I have been explaining since October in my series of articles under the heading, Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology. Read the rest of this entry »

June 30: A National Day of Action Against the Incompetent Tory-Led Coalition and Its Savage Ideological Cuts

Next Thursday, June 30, is the first big day of action involving widespread strikes since the coalition government began its miserable assault on the state after the General Election last May. 750,000 public sector workers from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the University and College Union (UCU) will take part in a one-day walkout, primarily over the government’s planned pension reforms, which will almost certainly be the trigger for further strikes in the autumn. As the Guardian explained, the day of action “is expected to bring schools, colleges, universities, courts, ports and jobcentres to a standstill, and comes as millions of staff face pay freezes, job losses and pension reforms.”

Speaking to the Guardian last week, Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, the largest public sector union, with 1.4 million members, was already discussing a possible follow-up. Although he is hoping for a negotiated settlement with the government over pension reforms and other pressing issues of concern to Unison members, and is not taking part in the action on June 30, he “described plans for waves of strike action, with public services shut down on a daily basis, rolling from one region to the next and from sector to sector,” fuelled by “growing anger over a public sector pay freeze that could trigger more disputes further down the line,” and “changes [which] would unfairly penalise women, who form the majority of low-paid public sector workers.” He told the Guardian, “It will be the biggest since the general strike. It won’t be the miners’ strike. We are going to win.”

Prentis’ warning to the government has not yet materialised, of course, but, crucially, the striking union workers who are committed to action on June 30 will be joined by many other people who will be using the day to campaign more broadly against the bitter fallout from the government’s largely indiscriminate austerity programme, which has prompted a steep decline in the government’s popularity over the last 12 months. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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