Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Big Strike in South London

Busy day not working due to the huge November 30th strike by public sector workers. The main issue was pensions, but there is a wider sense of grievance against having to work longer, be paid less, and then end up with a poorer pension - that is if you make it that far in a climate of permanent job insecurity.

There were walkouts at schools, colleges, hospitals, Government departments, councils and many other workplaces across South London, and of course across the country.

At Goldsmiths College in New Cross there was a big 100+ picket, with lectures cancelled. South London Solidarity Federation had been marching with a 'mobile picket' of 30-odd people between picket lines across Lewisham offering biscuits and solidarity, and their arrival at Goldsmiths was the spark for people to block the road (Lewisham Way) for 15 minutes or so before being cleared by police. Incidentally the 'Capitalism is Crisis, Goldsmiths is a symptom' banner was hung up from the roof of Richard Hoggart building overnight before being removed by security.

At Elephant and Castle there were pickets out in force at the London College of Communications...

...where this banner was on display:

At London South Bank University on London Road there was a Strike HQ and Strikers Canteen supported by Southwark Trades Council, with free tea and cake to keep people going.

There were some great Simpsons-placards on display there:

Staff and students from South Bank University were joined by striking Southwark Council workers.

London South Bank Students Union had made their own N30 All Out t-shirts especially for the occasion:

After an Assembly meeting of strikers and supporters, about 200 people set off on an impromptu march up Waterloo Road and over Waterloo Bridge to join the main, and very large, London-wide demonstration from Lincolns Inn Fields. On Waterloo Road we passed the pickets outside London Ambulance Service and there was some mutal cheering.

Later, activists staged a protest at the headquarters of mining giant Xstrata in Panton Street (near Leicester Square), whose CEO is believed to be the highest paid in the country. According to Xstrata's annual report CEO Mick Davis, received a pay and free share package worth £17.7m in the last financial year. We're all in it together? Yeah right.

Updated 1 December:

My day out on strike has some nice photos and reflections, including of various Lewisham pickets, including the one above from Lewisham Hospital: 'physios standing up for pensions'.

Bob from Brockley's thoughts: 'We urgently need to re-assemble the value of solidarity, to re-boot our politics, and to start crafting an alternative. Still, we can be proud of what we did on November 30' (pretty much what I think).

Some pictures from Occupy Goldsmiths.

East London Lines: reportage and photos.

Martin Powell-Davies reports on teachers striking locally, including this fine banner from Sydenham School:

Workers Liberty Reports: 'Went to Unison's rally at Lewisham hospital. About 150 people present - all blowing whistles, so it was hard to hear the speakers. Some of the people on the rally were going back to work afterwards. Most Unison members in the hospital were not out for the whole day. Branch sec blamed this partly on large numbers of members regarding themselves as essential for patient care, though they don't seem well organised enough to have had a proper exemptions system. I had been told this was a joint rally with Lewisham local government branch, but no sign of them there. However, there were quite a few physios members of CSP there who said almost all physios were out 5 working to provide an emergency service. They said likewise almost all OTs were out. There was a student nurse who was organising people to go up to St Thomas' and join a health worker's feeder march there. She also said she'd heard 75% of London Ambulance staff were on strike. There were a few RCN reps who had come on their day off, they said they were planning to ballot if there's been no progress on pensions by December.  Despite what seemed to me largely ineffective action, the people at the rally were all very enthusiastic & public support was high, with horns going from passing traffic almost continuously. Overall, I don't think the staff there expect this dispute to be won by today's action, but I think many of them would be willing to go out again. Many of these people have never been ballotted before, if anything I think today's action has increased their confidence'.

Dissident Chickpea at Indymedia (with sound recordings) reports on pickets at Lewisham hospital, Lewisham Job Centre and 'Lewisham Town Hall... I was pretty pleased to see a happy-looking, vibrant crowd of picketers wearing at least three different union bibs (a nice bit of cross-union solidarity and organising going on - GMB, NUT, Unison, Unite...) and a good percentage of women in the crowd of about 30 people. Cars, buses and lorries passing by honked and waved in support every half a minute on average and many pedestrians took the literature that was being handed out... Jane, a social worker and family therapist, candidly discussed how the pension cuts would effect her: "I'm here today primarily over pensions...I've done the calculation as to what these changes would mean for me, it means over the next three years I will be paying 100 pounds a month more for 100 pounds a month less in pension so it's really significant...I think women are really effected by this because they work part-time to look after children, they take maternity leave...The average pension for women is about 4,000 pounds a year.'

1 comment:

Simon P said...

The action was pretty solid at the University of Greenwich, too. There were pickets on both main gates in the morning, and then a delegation of about 30 - teachers (UCU members) and non-teaching staff (Unison members) - joined the march in central London.
On the march I also met school staff from Greenwich (as you'd expect), but also a pretty impressive delegation from one of the primary schools in Bexley (not usually noted for its militancy).