Herefordshire workers join biggest walkout for decades

Workers from many industries took strike action on Wednesday to defend attacks on their pensions from the Tory government.

Teachers, paramedics, nurses, local government staff and others from across Herefordshire downed tools and took part in the strike.

Picket lines were in place outside many offices and schools and over 200 people attended the midday rally in High Town, where speeches were heard from a number of union officials.

Unison organiser, Steve Akers, called on workers to “debate and win the arguments surrounding the pensions and cuts in your communities, workplaces, pubs and clubs”. “Go back to work and organise,” he said.

Herefordshire Unison are continuing to organise around the pensions issue and have called another strike committee meeting for next Tuesday 6thDecember. Taking place at 12.30 at the Town or Shire Hall (TBC), the meeting is currently open to officials from local union branches only.

Yet the Heckler believes that these meetings should be open to all peopleaffected by the pensions issue, including workers, families, service users and all involved in the struggle against government cuts.

Strike action around the region also received great support. Six hundred people took part in a march in Worcester, after speeches and a rally at Tramps Nightclub. Unions have said over 75% of Worcestershire teachers were on strike. In Gloucester 2,000 people joined the mass rally at Gloucester Park, after marching from Shire Hall.

Nationally, the picture is much the same. Large rallies and thousands of pickets taking place across the country, with over 2 million public sector workers taking part in the action and more supporting them in rallies, on picket lines and in solidarity actions. A national demonstration was held in Birmingham, with tens of thousands also marching in LondonBristol and Manchester.Almost 70% of schools were closed, over 42% of the London Ambulance Service was on strike, along with a third of local council workers and a quarter of civil servants.

Students have acted in solidarity with striking lecturers and other public sector workers, showing that the  pensions struggle is linked with tuition fees issue and other government ‘austerity measures.’ A series of occupations has taken place at universities across the country in the run-up to November 30th, and on the day itself. So far, students have taken part in occupations at Aberdeen, the University of West England, Goldsmiths, Cambridge, Birmingham, Edinburgh, the University of East Anglia, Liverpool, Essex and Royal Holloway. Many also joined picket lines and demonstrations on the day.

Others, including anti-capitalist/anarchist protesters, electricians and UK Uncut also took action. A group of activists affiliated to the Occupy London group spent the day touring London, supporting pickets, joining protests and linking up with other demonstrators. In the evening they broke off and entered a building on Haymarket, occupying the office of Mick Davies, CEO of mining company, Xstrata, a ‘leading light of the FTSE 100’ and one of the highest paid. Activists unfurled a banner saying ‘All power to the 99%’ on the roof, as police kettled supporters below and moved in to make over 20 arrests.

Meanwhile in London, a group of striking workers were kettled by police outside a library in Hackney in a move that shows the increasingly anti-democratic direction that policing in the capital is taking. Forty-one strikers were arrested for a breach of the peace.

Electricians, who are currently involved in a campaign of early morning pickets and occupations to defend their working contracts, also supported the striking public sector workers.

Anti-cuts group, UK Uncut held what they called a day of ‘SolidariTea.’ They attended picket lines with tea and food for cold strikers.

We cannot doubt the significance of the action. The sheer number of people taking part is something that hasn’t been seen in years. Workers from different industries are showing solidarity with each other and breaking down the government’s public vs. private sector propaganda. Strikers are joining together with students and anti-cuts activists. The struggle is being broadened, with tactics diversifying.

We need to ensure that the links made are cemented and the momentum is kept up. One-day strikes alone will not defeat the government’s programme of cuts and attacks on the workers of this country. More occupations, blockades, go-slows, pickets and protests against government targets, banks and the super-rich are needed. We have many weapons in our arsenal – let’s use them!

Hereford strike committee meeting, 12.30pm Tuesday 6th December, Town or Shire Hall (TBC).

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