Public sector strike - workers stand firm

30,000 strike in Wales to defend pensions


Civil servants, college and university lecturers and health workers were joined by a walk-out of prison officers in defiance of anti-union laws as public sector workers showed a new determination to win the fight against the Con Dem government's cuts to their pensions. The National Assembly was closed for the day by strike action. Even police officers demonstrated as over hundreds of police officers from Wales travelled to London to protest.

Members of PCS, the civil service union, and UCU, the lecturers union, were taking their third day of strike action against cuts that would mean they would pay more to retire later for a lower pension. But they were more determined than ever to win. The picket lines were slightly smaller than in previous strikes, but the action was just as solid as previously.

Other workers who have had cuts to their pensions were frustrated that they could not take action. Teachers in Wales had decisively rejected the government's 'offer' but were disappointed not to be called out by the NUT executive. Health workers in UNISON had also voted against the deal despite their leadership deciding to opt out of action.

At the strike rally in Cardiff it was standing room only as hundreds of workers heard union leaders from across Wales support the strike, including Socialist Party members Katrine Williams, President of PCS Wales, and Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the PCS. Chris Baugh received an ovation at the end of a speech that really caught the mood of strikers when he explained that the strike was part of the movement across Europe against austerity and the greed of the super-rich.

In Swansea there was a combative mood; speakers from those unions on strike called on others to join them in re-building the alliance that shook the Tories on November 30. Members of unions not taking action told of members who were frustrated and ready to strike and called from the floor for extended joint action in the near future. Ronnie Job, representing Swansea Trades Council, was applauded when he said he was at the rally because he refused to cross a picket line of his comrades in UCU. He said that workers are ready to fight on pensions, regional pay, in defence of the NHS and to oppose all cuts - "we won't pay a penny more for the crisis of the bankers and the markets".

Sixteen strikers were on the Coleg Gwent picket line at Nash in Newport. UCU branch secretary Roy McCabe thought the strike needs to be stepped up: "We don't just want a one day strike every few months - we need wider action over a few days if we are going to beat the government. Let's hope we can get everyone out in the autumn". May 10th was a step in that direction.

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