Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Public Sector strikes hit the North East

Yesterday two million public sector workers staged a mass walkout over pensions, in what many are calling the biggest strikes in a generation.

Across the country over 20,000 schools were closed, emergency operations were cancelled, and protesters gathered to voice their concerns over changes to their pensions schemes.

In the North East, unions estimated that 300,000 workers stayed at home. Around 8,000 teachers, transport workers, nurses and public sector administrative staff marched from Gateshead to Newcastle Quayside to voice their concerns about how the cuts would affect them.

In a rousing speech to the crowd, general secretary of the RMT Bob Crow called on workers from both the public and the private sector to come together to stage a one day strike to “take on the government”.

“It’s not just about pensions, it’s not just about pay freezes, it’s a tax on austerity,” he said.

“The government want to shift the balance from those who caused the damages through corruption and greed in the banking industry, to make working people pay for it, and the only thing standing in their way is an organised trade union movement.”

He went on to encourage attendees to spread the message across the UK about the cuts which are taking place, and demanded the government consider introducing voluntary retirement at 55 to help create jobs for the 1 million young people who are out of work.

“The Lib Dems have been found out - they are the same as the Tories, and the Tories have never been the friends of the working class people.

“These attacks are putting a divide between public and private sector workers, and private sector members better start realising that once you start lowering the pay for workers in the public sector, it goes to the employers in the private sector to use it as an excuse to lower pay for them as well.”

The changes are set to hit lower paid workers hardest, most of whom are women. One further education teacher explained how the changes would affect her. Her pension is currently worth £6000 per annum, but under the government’s proposals, she would be required to put an extra £80 into her pension until she retires.

Another Union member accused the Government of “insulting” Union members during negotiations, and questioned what would be done with the money saved if changes go ahead.

He said: “ They expect us to work for longer, pay more and get less back - and then insult us with a 1% pay rise after a 3 year pay freeze.

“The government says that the pensions schemes are not viable, yet we have billions in the pensions fund.

“Do you think that if the cuts go ahead they will put into council budgets, give us a pay rise or put more money into the NHS? No, no, no and no answers all these questions.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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