This coming Wednesday, 30th November, sees another day of UK-wide public sector strikes over pensions, with numbers for York estimated at around 3,000 staff from the council alone, plus more from the Jobcentre, the universities, colleges and other workplaces throughout the city. Strikers, in conjunction with York Stop the Cuts, have called a demonstration and rally, assembling at Clifford’s Tower at 12 noon and marching to the Minster for a rally at 1pm.
York Stop the Cuts has also organised a Picket Support Centre at St Lawrence Church Hall, Lawrence Street, running from 7am to 11am; this will be used to co-ordinate media, visits to picket lines and other tasks through the morning.
Other events planned for the day* include:
- Picket lines at Monkgate Jobcentre, Stonebow Jobcentre, York St. John University and elsewhere.
- Stalls at the Minster rally from Food Not Bombs, York Welfare Campaign, York Stop the Cuts and more.
- In the evening, York IWW is hosting a film showing of Land and Freedom, Ken Loach’s film about the Spanish Civil War. The film will be shown at Bar Lane Studios Cellar on Micklegate – doors open at 7:30 pm with the film starting at 8:00 pm.
(* This list will be updated as and when more info is available.)
The usual suspects have, of course, come out with the usual lines. Julian Sturdy, Tory MP for York Outer, has already branded the action “irresponsible”, while Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education managed to find time out of his usual schedule – advocating the return of corporal punishment, among other things – to condemn the strikers. On a national level, meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude made the entirely gracious and thoroughly well-received suggestion that strikers avoid losing pay by staging a token strike lasting a total of fifteen minutes, with Cameron chiming in to suggest parents affected by school closures should just take their children to work instead. Nice to know they have everyone’s interests at heart.
Thankfully for all concerned, Labour have leapt to the rescue, standing up to the Coalition in a daring display of ambivalence, refusing to either support or condemn the strikes – or in fact say anything at all of substance. So at least the millions of pounds of union members’ money funnelled into the Labour Party being put to to good use.
Sarcasm aside, there is a point here. While their reasons for opposing the strikes may differ – some for ideological reasons, others concerned that being seen as too lefty could be a liability come election time – those in power, right or “left”, in office or in opposition, are not on our side, even for such a relatively mild action as a 24 hour strike. Should things escalate to the level they have elsewhere – Greece, Italy, Oakland – we can expect to see much of the same, if not more.
While Parliament has been busy engaging in the usual round of playground taunts and insults, people on the ground have been busy. Rank and file electricians, the Sparks, have been engaged in a series of demonstrations, occupations and confrontations over attacks on their working agreements. Students across the UK took part in a mass protest on 9th November (facing the force of “total policing” as a consequence), followed up by a series of occupations across the UK – including York – on the 23rd. And, of course, there is the Occupy Movement itself.
As much as anything, the significance of these developments is that they are not alone. Occupiers in Oakland called for a general strike on 2nd November. Sparks attempted to join with the student demonstration in London on the 9th (only to prevented from doing so by the heavy police presence). And the sheer international – global – scale of the Occupy movement demonstrates that, far from falling into nationalism, many are instead seeing that they have more in common with their fellow workers, students, disabled and unemployed in other countries than with their “own” political and business leaders.
Few would claim that the 24-hour strike planned for the 30th is likely to force out the current government, much less that it will bring a halt to the austerity measures we are faced with. Yet the – frankly hysterical – reaction from the government demonstrates their fear of any sort of mass opposition. As much as anything, the day represents an opportunity to bring people together, to defend what those before us fought for and won – healthcare, education, pensions, benefits, the freedom to organise in our workplaces, streets and communities.
See you soon.
Love, rage & solidarity,
– York Anarchists