Thursday, May 10, 2012
Today saw civil servants, health workers and other public sector workers taking action against deteriorating pensions - changes which can be summed up as 'pay more, work longer, get less'. It wasn't as big an event as the strike last November which also included teachers, local government workers and university staff, but nevertheless up to 400,000 people are estimated to have taken action.
I came across pickets at Kings hospital in Camberwell (pictured) and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in Tooley St SE1; I gather there were also people out at Lewisham College, Catford Job Centre, the Kaleidoscope child development centre (Rushey Green Road) and no doubt many other places in SE London. A demonstration headed into central London from St Thomas' Hospital.
Elsewhere in a not entirely unrelated protest up to 30,000 police officers marched against cuts - police sergeant tweeter Rob Jackson reported last night that 'Over 100 Lewisham officers will join other Met Colleagues for the March against police cuts'. Hardened strikers and protesters with experience of being pushed around by the police can be forgiven some schadenfreude, and may not feel inclined to rush to support them. But whether we like them or not, we shouldn't lose sight of the political significance of the police marching against the policies of a Conservative government on the same day as other public sector workers.
It sometimes feel sthat we are living through a re-run of the 1980s. The Thatcher Government of that period destroyed industries, threw millions on to the dole and ruthlessly deployed its forces against opposition. But however much it was hated by many, it also maintained its domination by winning the active support of parts of the population including many working class and middle class people who felt their living standards were rising. The police were obvious beneficiaries, but they weren't the only ones. The difference this time round is that there is virtually no 'positive buy in' to the Government. Hardly anybody feels that they are better off, the most the Government can rely on is a widespread despair about alternatives and fuelling a brooding resentment against 'better off' public sector workers. Even it were true that public sector pensions are better all round (they are for some, but not for everybody), making them worse won't help people working in the private sector. In fact the worse conditions are for public sector workers, the less private sector employers will have to do to compete and attract staff - so conditions are likely to deteriorate all round.
(if you've got any other South London strike/protest news, please comment)
(Brixton Blog covers the strike in Lambeth, Big Smoke has pictures of London protests, Lewisham teacher Martin Powell-Davies covers some local action; Harpy Marx has pictures of the demo at St Thomas')