Day of Action to target austerity and cuts as well as pensions robbery

By staff writers
November 29, 2011

Wednesday 30 November will see the first mass strike across Britain for four decades, as public sector workers protest against pension cuts.

Some 17 unions, including the biggest ones Unite, University and College Union (UCU), Unison, various teaching unions and Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), have all balloted to join the national Day of Action.

An estimated 3 million people will withhold their labour, and many other actions are planned to highlight the injustices brought about by government spending cuts and austerity measures - which have produced a downturn rather than an upswing in the economy, and are harming the country's capacity to repay debt as well as support its most vulnerable citizens, say critics.

Demonstrations, pickets, direct actions and symbolic events are planned across the country.

Among the strikers are some unlikely suspects, say organisers and supporters.

For example, 18,000 Border Agency workers are expected to strike, leaving the government having to employ private security firm Serco to take over for a day. The National Union of Probation Officers also voted to join the strike with a four-to-one majority.

The government wants public sector workers to forgo three per cent of their salary as pension contributions, which equates to a significant pay cut, they say.

Workers have additionally been required to accept a two year pay freeze during a time of high inflation (in effect, a cut), while others have lost their jobs during several waves of mass redundancies.

N30 Strike says: "The government’s arguments are designed to play on long term disgruntlement among the private sector that they have to deal with, on the whole, a shockingly shit pensions scenario and the public sector have had it a bit better off. Rather than aiming to sort out the private pensions mess which leaves millions in poverty on retirement, the Prime Minister wants the country to believe the public sector pensions are ‘gold plated’, unfair and unsustainable."

"Actually," the network continues, "most public workers end up with less than £5,000 a year in pension entitlement. They’ve also been 'reformed' through a mix of negotiated and underhand changes. Public sector pensions have been reduced to the tune of 25p in each pound over the last few years."

The day will be one of anti-austerity action on the whole, say activists. The government’s cuts have been sector specific until now, and anti-strike legislation forbids solidarity action – effectively making mass, cross-sector strikes illegal. But now shared pension cuts could become the focal point for wider unrest and opposition to coalition policies.

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