Strikes hit the county at the end of June as workers took action to defend their pay and pensions. Schools were closed from Leominster to Lea and colleges, courts and Hereford Jobcentre were also affected.
Members of four unions–National Union of Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, University and Colleges Union and the Public and Commercial Services union–coordinated the action on 30th June in protest at government plans that would see workers retire later and pay more into their pensions, reducing their monthly wage.
It was the first industrial action taken nationally against the ConDem programme of cuts.
The strikes hit as Herefordshire Council put into action plans to make redundant all music teachers throughout schools in the county in a further ‘cost-cutting’ exercise. The decision was taken behind closed doors without consultation or a vote.
A business model was recommended that will see teachers laid off and rehired on a self-employed basis, dependent on the whim of schools that want to work with them.
Chris Levandowski, from the NASWUT union, spoke up for members and vowed to fight tooth and nail to save their jobs: “Most of the staff I have spoken to are most unhappy about that situation, but they have no choice.” Err, or should that be can’t really be bothered to fight for anything.
Childminders in Herefordshire have also been fighting cuts to their budgets by organising a petition, wholly signed by over 60 childminders.
The petition was presented to new council leader John Jarvis, destined we imagine, straight for the bin judging by the council’s long tradition of not giving a monkey’s.
The news that the Trades Union Congress has met with anti-cuts groups, including anarchists and radical groups like UK Uncut, to coordinate and plan future protests and strike action should be welcomed. Our ultimate goals may be different but right now fighting separately would be idiotic.
But if we are fighting to win we must up the ante and go beyond the one-day strike, the polite petition, the giving up before we’ve even tried. We must stop merely going, painfully, through the motions and start getting serious.
Right now the Greek anti-cuts movement is showing us that it is possible to fight back against austerity and pose a serious threat to the state; we didn’t create this mess so why should we pay for it. But what Greece is also showing us is the level of struggle we have to aspire to have any effect.
Unions, workers, community groups and individuals fighting government cuts across Herefordshire urgently need to unite. Isolated petitions just won’t cut it anymore.