200,000 strike in Wales
Pickets out in force across Wales
Up to 200,000 public sector workers struck on November 30 in a massive display of strength. The overwhelming majority of schools in Wales were closed as was the Assembly and most government and council offices. Hospital workers were out in force providing emergency cover. In Cardiff no buses ran and the Bute Tunnel was closed.
While the strike was to defend their pensions, most public sector workers see the pension’s robbery as merely the final straw in a range of attacks. Most have seen cuts in their pay or conditions as they are expected to cover for unfilled vacancies or have experienced pay cuts or a pay freeze. Osborne’s threat to bring end national pay rates and agreements will hit Welsh workers especially badly and the 1% increase promised from 2013 in effect promises a further 4% annual pay cut.
Across Wales they were picketing and rallying in a large numbers to show Cameron and Osborne that they will fight to the end. There was significant support for the Socialist Party’s demand for the TUC to call for further co-ordinated strike action early next year.
All Cardiff’s schools were closed and no buses ran as workers picketed across the city. The city’s hospitals, council offices and depots, libraries, colleges, universities, museums, the Assembly, government offices and job centres.
Public support for the strike (at least 61% according to a BBC poll) could be seen as passers by applauded the 4,000 strikers who marched through the city to a rally at the cricket stadium. Public sector workers who had not been balloted notably nurses and fire-fighters also joined the march.
Following lively and vibrant picket lines at sites all across the city, over 2,000 workers gathered to march through the centre of town. From shops, pubs, restaurants and houses, people came out into the street to applaud the marchers and join with our chants and songs.
The rally at the end completely filled Castle Square, confirming the correctness of the decisions to hold an open air rally despite the miserable autumn weather. The rally heard from trade unionists representing workers in education, health, the local authority and the civil service. To a woman and man they voiced their determination to keep fighting until the government concedes. The message from all speakers was that public sector workers will not be made to pay for a crisis that we did not cause.
Ronnie Job, who compered the rally of 2,000 workers commented, "This determination to fight until we win, increased by yesterday’s announcement of pay freeze until 2015, has to built on by escalating the action. The TUC should name the next day of strike action now and for it to take place as early as practical in the New Year. Public sector workers voted for this action with such huge majorities because it is a fight we dare not lose and because everybody understands that it is a deliberate attempt to make us pay for a crisis of the bosses’ system.
"Labour MP for Swansea East, Sian James, promised support for the strikers but could not defend the position of Miliband and the party’s leadership who are unwilling to back our action today.
"Another Labour Party’s representative told me she was “ashamed” of her party leader’s attitude to the strike when she visited a picket line at my workplace. If even the Labour Party’s elected representatives are shamed by the position of its leadership, is it not time that major trade unions stopped giving them unquestioning support (and our subs) and instead support candidates who will genuinely fight for our members?"
Workers at St. Woolos hospital set up a lively and effective picket line stopping a number of cars and persuading people not go in. One patient coming for dialysis treatment even offered not to cross the picket line. When an official in a big yellow flash jacket drove up and asked to speak to the pickets they thought they were going to get a row, but he had come up from Newport Bus to offer to stop the shuttle to the hospital.
This was the picture across the city as workers had large picket lines at hospitals, the main civil service workplaces, Office of National Statistics, Intellectual Property Office, Passport Office and DWP contact centre. There was no picket at Coleg Gwent in Newport as the gates were locked closed.
700 marched through Wrexham in the biggest show of strength by the trade unions for many years. Pickets from the council, hospital, university and schools were joined by RCN and FBU members.
Pickets were out early across Caerphilly. The newly-opened Ysbytty Ystrad Fawr was picketed by its new workforce. As well as council workers and civil servants across the borough. Youth workers were also out in the youth centres.
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