Guest post: Mark Serwotka on the N30 strike

Posted on Mon 28th Nov 2011, 3:42pm
This is a guest post by Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of The Public and Commercial Services Union

On 30 June, PCS held the best supported strike in our history. It wasn’t just well supported by our members, but by UK Uncut activists who organised ‘Big Society breakfasts’ for people on picket lines. That strike, the marches and rallies, and the public support gave people confidence.

The 30 November strike this Wednesday will be even bigger. In June we were striking alongside three education unions, this week it will be alongside nearly thirty unions: 3 million of us striking together. The issue that has unified us is an unjustified attack on our pensions which, as every independent audit has shown, are entirely affordable and sustainable. The government is telling us we must work longer and pay more to get a smaller pension.

The centrepiece of the government’s attack is a 3% tax on all public sector workers. Not a single penny of this will go into our pensions – it goes straight into the Treasury to pay for the deficit.

Public opinion is with us (61% to 36% according to the BBC) because there is a widespread feeling that we are paying for a crisis we played no part in causing. It is this sense of injustice that inspired UK Uncut – asking why ordinary workers pay their taxes, yet a super-rich elite avoids them.

The question is not whether we have a deficit, but who pays? Rather than tackle corporate tax avoidance, this government has announced a further £25bn in tax breaks to big business, while at the same time slashing the welfare budget by over £20bn. It is now introducing workfare – forcing the unemployed to work up to 30 hours a week just to get meagre benefits. Welfare claimants are organising to resist.

The Occupy actions across the UK are a further response to an economic system that has opened up huge inequalities, crashed the economy and is now demanding the rest of us pay. Students and young people are bearing the brunt: no jobs, extortionate fees and massive cuts to youth services. This period has also seen tax justice become a major campaigning issue, thanks to the inspirational direct action of UK Uncut, the largest student demonstrations in history, occupations breaking out all over the UK and the world, people on welfare and the disabled organising themselves to fight cuts – and Wednesday sees the largest strike action for a generation.

The challenge now is for us to work together and support each other to force this government to abandon the economic model that is devastating our communities. My union has supported each and every one of these campaigns. We need to build the solidarity ... and look forward to UK Uncut's ‘solidaritea’.

Trouble's brewing for the Government - solidariTEA with the strikers!

Posted on Sun 27th Nov 2011, 7:35pm
Prime Minister David Cameron has described Wednesday's strike, the biggest in this country since 1926, as “the height of irresponsibility”. Standing up against unfair and unnecessary attacks on your pension doesn't seem irresponsible - but here are a few things that are: Cameron keeps banging on about the disparity between private and public sector pensions as a reason for attacking the strike. If there's a problem, it's that private sector pensions in this country are a disgrace. That’s why people are striking under the slogan ‘Fair Pensions For All’:

Does Cameron even realise who he is telling to work for longer, pay more and earn less? He’s talking about lollipop ladies and headteachers, care assistants and university lecturers, teachers, construction workers and physiotherapists. They are pillars of our community. Without them, society would not function. We all rely on them. When the government attacks the unions, let's remember who they are talking about. The unions democratically represent ordinary people, people who collect our bins, look after us when we are sick and educate our children. They are librarians, nurses and dinner ladies. They are making a stand, and losing a day’s pay to boot.

But this strike is about more than just pensions. This is the biggest day of action yet against austerity- anyone interested in opposing the government's attacks on our public services should support the strike. Anyone outraged that the banks that wrecked our economy still haven’t been made to pay- whilst the rest of us are punished- should support the strike. Anyone outraged that the super-rich in this country consistently get away with dodging billions in tax should support the strike- the trade union movement has consistently been one of the most vocal voices calling for the government to tackle tax avoidance.

This strike is no storm in a tea cup- real trouble is brewing for the government if they continue to ignore the alternatives to dismantling our public services and slashing public sector pensions. The government and the banks have been mugging us off for too long. This Wednesday, take a flask of hot solidariTEA to the pickets and demonstrations, and don't forget to send in your images of support. Let's not fall into the government's divide-and-rule trap — we're all in this together, against them!

Press release: UK Uncut supporting nationwide strikes with ‘SolidariTEA’

Posted on Sat 26th Nov 2011, 12:11pm
PRESS RELEASE: UK Uncut supporting nationwide strikes with ‘SolidariTEA’

For immediate release
Tel 07415063231

UK Uncut [1] activists will take action in support of public sector strikes on the 30 November, joining public sector workers, students and other anti-cuts groups as part of the largest day of action against the Government's cuts so far. 23 unions representing over 2 million public sector workers [2] will be taking part in the biggest strike in this country for a generation.

As part of UK Uncut's ‘SolidariTEA’ campaign [3], tea will be provided to striking staff on picket lines and local demonstrations across the country, to show public support for workers and to build links between local direct action groups and union members.

The group will also take advantage of its social media channels, where it has significant reach [4], to combat the Government's press operation in traditional media. A series of guest blogs and FAQs are being lined up to dispel myths surrounding the strikes, and members of UK Uncut’s online community, numbering over 30,000, will be encouraged to send in photos of support on the day [5].

Rachel Woodsted, 27, a UK Uncut supporter said; “Strike action is direct action, and we'll be showing ‘solidaritea’ with the people on the picket lines on Wednesday. Rather than destroying our public services and slashing public sector pensions, the Government should be making the banks pay for a crisis they caused and stopping tax dodging by corporations and the rich."

Emma Heyfield, 36, from Sheffield; “I work in the private sector and I am supporting the strikers. It’s not just public sector workers who are angry. I’m sick of hearing the government blame everyone except the bankers for the financial crisis. This mess wasn’t caused by teachers and nurses, so why are they being punished? Making public sector workers work longer for less won’t do anything to improve my private sector pension, it will just harm the public services that we all rely on”.

UK Uncut supporter Lucy Tanner, 28, said: "UK Uncut and other grassroots groups have built a significant reach via social media channels over the past year. For the first time, we have the opportunity to effectively challenge some of the Government's lies about the strikes put out via traditional media. Social media will play a crucial role in the battle for hearts and minds on 30th November and beyond."

UK Uncut are vowing to support and build on the strike action with more direct action protest against tax avoiders in December.

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