Mass support for November strike

by Daphne Liddle

ELEVEN unions have delivered a resounding “Yes” for the 30th November general strike of public sector workers against the robbery of their pensions and many more are expected to join them when the ballots come in later this week.

Unison and Ucatt have already signed up for the TUC’s Day of Action. The vote in the giant union, Unite, comes in this week and the National Union of Students has pledged full support for pickets and rallies on the day.

Three civil service unions with members across all government departments have all voted to come out on “Pensions Justice Day” on 30th November. PCS, which covers most general grades and is one of the largest unions in the country, is now joined by professional staff in Prospect and the senior grades in the First Division Association.

Thousands of head teachers have also voted for action together with teachers unions in northern Ireland while the results of ballots from the two major teaching unions in England and Wales will be out this week.

Over three million workers are set to take industrial action at the end of the month, making it the biggest stoppage ever in British labour history.

A previous strike in June pulled out 750,000 public sector workers and the pressure has been building since as the Government has reacted with threats, smears and pathetic offers of exemption from pay penalties if strikers limit their action to just 15 minutes of token strike.

Rallies and marches have been planned throughout the country, meaning that police are going to be stretched and will struggle to find the numbers to use tactics like kettling.

As well as the strikers, the marches and rallies will attract local protesters at Government cuts to all manner of services — from libraries and youth clubs to disability benefits and housing benefits. There will be plenty of unemployed people involved in the protests as the latest figures show unemployment rising rapidly to its highest level for 17 years, especially among young people — more than a million out of work — and among women.

The giant union Unite accused the Con-Dem Coalition of condemning “a lost generation of young people” to the dole queue.

The total unemployment figure is now 2.562 million and the unemployment rate for young people, aged 16-24, broke through the one-million barrier in September.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Government has created a lost generation of young people unable to gain a foothold on the employment ladder.

“Ministers need to create a land bridge of opportunity for young people — our youth unemployment rate is twice that of Germany.

“It is not only a personal tragedy for the young people concerned, but it is also a waste of talent and potential, so necessary for economic growth, and is sowing the seeds for a whole raft of future social problems.

“The Government needs to adopt a twin-track policy — having more targeted measures to help young people into work, while at the same time, reversing the hard-line austerity measures that have sucked the life out of the British economy.”

Centrepoint, a charity which helps homeless young people, said the Government should step up support for young people.

Chief executive Seyi Obakin said: “These latest unemployment figures confirm that young people across the country are bearing the brunt of the jobs crisis.

“Almost half of the homeless young people we support are not in education, employment or training, showing the risk of the huge financial and social costs of unemployment being borne by the most vulnerable in our society.

“The Government must come up with plans in the autumn statement to tackle this problem, starting with direct Government intervention to help create jobs and apprenticeships specifically for young people. The cost of youth unemployment is too big for us to fail.”

Paul Kenny, general secretary of GMB, commented on the effects of continuing high inflation on those who are losing their jobs, losing their pensions.

He said: “The millions of workers without jobs face a miserable Christmas and a bleak New Year. For all the economic problems in other parts of Europe the number of young people out of work is far higher in the UK than in other parts of Europe and is three times higher than in Germany.

“Instead of attacking pensions and employment rights and making it easier to sack people the Government should be pursuing policies to create jobs, which is something it is failing miserably to do.”

Prospects for a huge day of striking, marching and protesting on 30th November are growing. This will put real pressure on the Government but we must already be preparing for the next massive action to follow through and pile on the pressure ever harder until the Con-Dems give way.