CWU support for November 30 strikes
CWU is sending support and solidarity to public sector workers on strike today (Wednesday). Activists across the country have visited picket lines, rallies and marches with union officials speaking at a number of rallies across the UK.
Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: "Today's strikes are a demonstration that the Coalition Government has lost the debate on austerity. Instead, millions of workers, a majority of whom are women, are demanding a change of course from government.
"It is gross hypocrisy to demand that low-paid workers should pay more, receive less and work longer for their pension while the Coalition Government's FTSE 100 friends receive an income 145 times the average salary, according to the High Pay Commission. This is a government of the 1%, not the 99%."
In Birmingham, CWU Midlands regional secretary Lee Barron has been on the demonstration in the city centre and is chairing the massive rally in the Birmingham indoor arena as he is also Chair of the Midlands TUC. "It seats 7,000 and we're going to fill it" said Lee. "There's been a lot of solidarity and support from the CWU across the Midlands. This is the biggest strike for a generation and if we as a generation are to be remembered for anything it should be to bring an end to the politics of greed and to reintroduce the politics of fairness to this country." Reflecting on what has brought about the strike action, Lee added: "trade unions are the last line of defence for working people."
Eastern regional secretary Paul Moffatt is doing a whistle-stop tour of the region, firstly speaking at a massive rally in Peterborough, before heading to Cambridge and to a rally in Bedford at 5pm. "The mood of the rallies is one of solidarity and unity. There's a clear message that these workers won't have their pay and pensions battered by this Tory-lead government" explained Paul. "There's also a lot of anger about the way the 1% seems to be calling the shots and also lots of anger about what Ministers have said about the strikes and in particular David Cameron's comments about trade unions falling into his trap. My message to those on strike has been that, on this historic day, communication workers support you and stand shoulder to shoulder with you."
Lawrence Huston, in a very cold Northern Ireland, explained that the support and turnout for the strikes has been overwhelming. "In my home town of Ballymena, what was described as a 'gathering at the Band Stand' this morning was much bigger than expected. There's an amazing turnout across Northern Ireland. I've had reports of postal and telecommunication workers going out on their lunch breaks to give messages of support to public sector workers on picket lines and at strike demonstrations."
South East Region:
In the South East of England, CWU regional secretary Paul Carpenter has been visiting picket lines across the region, including the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and colleges in Canterbury. "There are people across the region supporting today's strikes by sending messages of solidarity or joining marches in rallies from Worthing, to Portsmouth to Reading. We're hearing it's so busy that you can't move in Portsmouth and there was a huge turnout in Hastings and other places too. It just shows how strongly people feel about this issue."
Speaking at the march and rally in Reading, senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns said: "This strike is about the anger and frustration of the people who make this country work and who saw yesterday that this govt is on the side of the economy ruiners, the banks and not the real people in this society. Today we see the people's answer to the phoney big society."
Scotland regional secretary John Brown is joining the march and rally in support of the strikes in Glasgow. "As far as we can tell in Scotland the strikes have been very well supported by those on strike and by the general public who fully understand and appreciate the reasons for the action by those on strike" John explained. "Many CWU members have taken annual leave to join the marches and rallies taking place across Scotland to show their solidarity and support. It would appear that on the whole our members have respected the strike."
STUC video coverage of the day of action from around Scotland.
North East Region:
CWU activists and retired members have been supporting rallies and marches in cities across the Yorkshire and Humber and North East region, many taking annual leave to join events. Regional Secretary Paul Clays took bacon sandwiches to local picket lines in York, where the CWU regional office is based. Explaining the mood across the region, he said: "There were massive turnouts and great support in Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Doncaster and other towns and cities. Members turned out in their droves to show the government they don't agree with having their pensions attacked. Newcastle was a particularly big turnout - even the staff at Simpson Millar solicitors came out to support the strikers. The support has been immense - we've had solidarity messages from as far away as Norway."
In Wales, Cardiff city centre hosted a big rally while smaller events took place in Newport, Swansea and Wrexham. CWU's regional secretary for Wales Gary Watkins, said he was impressed with the turnout and felt encouraged by the speeches which were made. "There were a lot of young people and fresh faces" he explained. "Lay members were encouraged to speak at the rally, especially from smaller unions, so we got to hear from radiographers as well as nurses and teachers. Lots of people were keen to speak and explain why they were on strike." One of the things which really struck Gary was that everyone seemed to have taken on board the message that this isn't a case of public versus private sector, but that pension and employment rights in the private sector need improving. "I'm aware of the problems facing the Royal Mail and BT pension schemes, but many of our members in private companies like Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and small companies don't have any pension. I think we need to focus on pensions for all."
Tens of thousands of public-sector workers and supporters packed
the streets of central London today in a "magnificent show of
unity and solidarity" against the Government's attack on
Banners from all the big general unions - Unison, Unite, GMB - and from civil servants, teachers and many, many more were on display as workers stood together to tell Ministers: "Enough is enough - we'll defend our rights."
And although we in the CWU are not directly involved in the dispute, we expressed our full support for the public-sector workers' struggle too - a lively delegation from the union marched along with our striking comrades today, proudly bearing our CWU banners.
The Lincoln's Inn Fields assembly point filled up rapidly as strikers headed there from their morning picket lines all over London and the crowd extended all the way down Aldwych to the Strand, where the front of the procession set off.
Despite the anger running through the dispute, spirits were high and good-humoured as marchers paraded down towards Embankment, chanting, singing and blowing whistles.
Standing with the CWU London Region banner, regional secretary Jim Kirwan said: "From what I've been hearing today, this action's being solidly backed by millions of hard-working people right across the UK. And the message to the Government from London is crystal clear - stop bullying your employees, get back to serious and meaningful negotiations and treat workers fairly."
And the union's London Region political officer Alan Tate said that he was at the march to "show our union's solidarity with our fellow trade unionists in dispute.
"The Government's just not prepared to negotiate seriously and we hope that today will make them stop and think again.
"People in the CWU have told me they fully support the strikers and, whatever the Government says, I get the feeling that there's strong public support for these workers."
South West regional secretary Kevin Beazer was on the Capita picket line in Bristol at 6:45am and said that holding strike action at the same time as the public sector was "a real morale boost" for CWU members. "We had not only CWU executive members, but our general secretary Billy Hayes on the picket line this morning and then visitors from public sector unions including PCS and Unite. For the Capita workers it was a real buzz and made them feel they weren't alone. A lot of people have friends, a partner or family members who work in the public sector, so they're very aware of what's going on. Several family members came down to the Capita picket line and then on the march through Bristol you had family members on strike together. Everyone seems to know someone who works in the public sector."
CWU was also supporting public sector rallies across the South West with events in Exeter and Plymouth as well as smaller towns like Truro, Taunton and Torquay. Kevin expressed his gratitude to the support that public sector unions have given CWU members when on strike. "Today was a classic example of not being alone" he said, "there were kids, parents and grandparents all out together today."
Carl Webb CWU's North West regional secretary joined Capita workers on the picket line in Darwen. "It's been freezing cold this morning - since this dispute started these people have really seen a change in the weather! Supporting these workers who are being picked on is what trade unionism is all about." In support of the public sector strikes, Carl joined the march and rally in his home town of Blackpool while many CWU people across the region are visiting picket lines and sending messages of support to those on strike. "I was proud to carry the lead banner in my home town of Blackpool" said Carl. "I joined over 700 trade unionists and locals who marched in protest of the actions of vindictive government that despises public sector workers and their impedance for daring to stand up and say not only do MPs, Chief Executives and Directors deserve a decent pension, but so do nurses, porters, kitchen staff, teachers, nursery nurses, care workers, council workers as well as workers in the private sector. We will not accept this race to the bottom!"