Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The TUC Day of Action in Yorkshire and Humberside has been a big success

The TUC Day of Action in Yorkshire and Humberside has been a big success. Picket lines have largely been respected and the four [*] major rallies in Bradford, Sheffield, Hull and Leeds drew a combined total of 25,000 people to listen to a range of speakers from the 29 unions on strike. If the Government were hoping that public sector workers would refuse to stand up and fight for their pension rights then they will have been disappointed.

Picketing started early at many workplaces. At Kirklees Building Services the atmosphere was lively with Jan Grabowski, Unite deputy convenor reporting that from a total staff of around 600 “less than 20 had gone into work.”

Directly opposite members of UNISON at Street Scene and Housing were doing their best to keep out the cold. They may have had the youngest picket in Edward Williams who at just three months had joined his engineering dad Robert in protesting about changes that will leave both of them worse off. No wonder then that Kirklees UNISON had 61 newly completed forms from non-members this week as people from all occupations begin to understand just how important being in a trade union is.

Less than half a mile away members of UNISON and NAPO were unlikely to remain cold for long as they danced up and down and urged passing motorists to honk their horns in support. Plenty were willing to oblige as Natalie Atkinson, NAPO steward, explained "They just wanted to get over the message that we are not just against pension cuts but are for good public services that everyone needs and relies upon. Also it is not right that a crisis caused by unregulated financial banking should be paid for by working people.”

In nearby Leeds some of the pickets were on strike for the first time in their lives. At St James Hospital these were multi-union and they’d even gathered the support of a local pub owner who had provided sandwiches and light refreshments.

Suitably refreshed, and buoyed by news that even those who had been forced to work - in order to rightly provide emergency cover - were intending to join them at the end of their shifts they joined thousands of their colleagues from right across the public sector in converging on Leeds City Centre. With the Leeds Trades Union Council and University and College Union banners at its head a demonstration led the way. 

By the time the rally on the steps of the Art Gallery kicked off then there were an estimated 9,000 people present.

Bill Adams, secretary of Yorkshire and the Humber TUC said he was “proud to be amongst them” as he introduced the speakers. They were to draw warm applause with Hugh Lanning, the PCS Deputy General Secretary saying, “It has been a great day and if the government thought the public services were a soft touch they probably don’t now. But make no mistake the Tories never had a plan B and they are just using the financial recession as a cover for what has always been their political and ideological objectives. But we can fight and win.” 

Kate Mayer, a GMB education steward pointed out that all “pension funds are in surplus” and called for tax avoidance loopholes to be closed in order to raise an “annual £123 billion that could easily fund decent pensions for everyone in the public and private sector.” She said she was proud to have participated in the largest public sector strike since 1926.

Karen Reay, Unite Regional Secretary asked, “What will happen to young people, who want to work, if we force those who want to take a deserved break to work much longer? They are expecting nurses to work into their sixties, which will not only impact on their own health but will impact on the level of service members of the public can expect.”

Celia Foote of the NAS/UWT said it “was the government which wanted to put children’s education at risk and not teachers. Public sector pensions are affordable and it’s not just our pensions that are under attack as can be seen at Unilever where workers have voted for action.” Noting that it was the unions who had forced the Government to the negotiating table she called on “people to stick together in a battle we must win.”

At the end Bill Adams summed up the day’s events saying “this great turnout has been matched elsewhere across the region and we should all be proud of our efforts.”

Sheffield had 10,000 people at the closing rally
Thanks to Ralph Dyson from Rawmarsh School for photo 

  • Rallies were also held in 8 of the regions smaller towns and cities with an estimated total attendance of close to 8,000.

Power to the pickets
Thanks to Ralph Dyson for photograph. 

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