N30 reports

Submitted by AWL on 30 November, 2011 - 7:02

The 30 November public sector strike was the biggest single piece of industrial action in Britain for a generation.

Millions of workers from 25 different trade unions took part, organising lively picket lines, marches, and rallies across the UK. Despite Prime Minister David Cameron characterising the strike as “a damp squib”, the government’s own figures admit that the strike shut or partially closed over 16,000 schools (nearly 75% of all state schools in the country) and led to the cancellation of 7,000 routine (non-emergency) NHS procedures. In Scotland, only 30 schools out of thousands opened and 80% of Welsh schools were shut.

Here, we collate reports from across the country.

Post reports as comments below!

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Submitted by Cath on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 20:54

There were several picket lines at Durham Uni this morning, covering two major buildings in the town centre plus the Science site. A majority of pickets were younger fixed-term contract and casual staff, and it was good to see new people getting involved in the union. A small group of students came along to show solidarity with placard, coffee and biscuits. Picketing was followed by a 30-strong meeting to discuss follow-up activity for the union branch, which agreed to call a meeting before Christmas to work on improving local organisation. Elsewhere in the city the main council offices were picketed and there was a protest in the market square by strikers from the local PCS branch at the Passport Office. They are facing major cuts on top of the threat to pension provision. Some Durham people went on to the regional TUC demo in Newcastle, which saw an excellent turnout with 10000+ marchers.

Submitted by patmarkey on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 21:21

I visited picket lines this morning at Northampton College, Kingthorpe College, and Northampton General Hospital. The picket lines ranged in size from 5 to about 15, but were in good spirits and received lot of hoots of support from passing motorists.
There were about 1000 on the march and rally through Northampton. To be honest, I couldn't hear the speakers very well and I spent most of the time talking to people about the strike, and about politics in general, and giving out our strike bulletin.

Submitted by Tim on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 21:54

The biggest march and rally for a generation in Nottingham today. Estimates vary between 4000 and 8000 but either way it was big! Loads of picket lines at job centres, hospitals, local government etc .Lots of groups of workers striking for first time and people wanting to have leaflets and wanting to discuss what to do next so Solidarity and our leaflets went down well . We all sold out of our papers and gave away all leaflets with an AWL stall at the beginning and end of the march. A lively march went from the Forest to the Albert Hall where the TUC had stupidly made it an all ticket event for just a fraction of the demo with loads of boring speakers so that the thousands drifted away but were enthused by the last speaker Liam Conway from NUT teachers who got the biggest response by talking about the things that are on the front page of Solidarity, escalating the action, demanding Labour support the strikes , building cross union strike committees etc.
AWL have a public meeting on Thurs 8th Dec at the International Community Centre at 7.30pm with Liam speaking all welcome
Tim C

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 21:59

The strike at Newcastle city council was very solid this morning. Approx 50 pickets and supporters. Very few going in, limited number of exceptions due to pregnancy / final year of service.
90% of schools shut, metro system closed, every library, housing office etc all shut. Etc.
Mood of strikers was very good, with some discussions of where next. Newcastle Uni also had healthy picket lines with some student support. Off to regional TUC march. More later.

By Ed

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:11

Hull UCU picket was strong, about 30 workers and as many - if not more - students. Started at 7. Marched with students at 9.30 from uni to the rally in town. Blocked roads. Lots of support. Rally in town huge.

By Patrick Smith, Hull UCU (pc)

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:13

Pickets at every entrance of the General Infirmary and vast majority of schools closed. There were more than 3,000 at the Trades Council's rally and march, and at least double that at the main Regional TUC rally at noon. It was lively and vibrant throughout. Gave out AWL industrial bulletins and sold a dozen papers. Speakers at rally were demanding dates named in January.

By Dave, Leeds AWL

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:14

JobCentre workers in Hartshead Square were up for rolling and selective action to win! They know one-off gestures won't work. Voluntary-sector drugs workers joined the march at lunchtime.

By Max

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:16

Good pickets on all main buildings. Some people have come and turned back at the picket line at offices. No-one crossed at my library. Great reaction from passers-by. PCS had pickets in Brixton; small, but pleased with turnout. All the libraries were shut, with just two scabs across the whole borough.

By Ruth Cashman, Lambeth Unison (pc)

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:19

90% schools closed, the college shut to students but open to scabs. College was much more solid than J30 but pickets were smaller.

The council had the best turnout in decades, very strong. Maybe 80% out - I will confirm tomorrow so don't publish that. Every library and one big office (housing) closed completely. This is a testament to the work reps have done to really build the strike in lambeth.

Pickets everywhere- could barely move for them in Brixton, including in places we've never managed before eg every community mental health team. Picketers were a much better mix race and age than last strike - which is a sign of a growing trade union consciousness in workplaces. Picketers were workers not full timers. 40 or 50 were came to work but were turned away at/ joined picket lines - this is particularly true where we had weak organization. We have had big arguments in joint strike cttee about picket lines and this success shows how right we are.

350ppl on the central demo, which seems small. Passed (pretty passively) resolution which I will send round.

Public support was huge. People came by to give support and wish us luck, milions of free teas and cakes, buses and cars honking. Most people realize this is not the end but it's mixed - in health ppl are less realistic than in local gov, education or civil service.

St thomas' had 60 pickets, physios were very upbeat holding keep warm picket dance classes on the entrance. Ppl were generally v confused, unless they had a rep in their team to erasure them ppl tended to go in; line from region was all very friendly, don't challenge ppl they're probably exempted. But there were ppl out and it looks like there could be a genuine rank and file reps initiative getting off the ground.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:23

Islington was very uneven.

All schools shut apart from one church school. They tried to open the central library which they didn't manage but 3 people went in. There were pickets of 20-30 at two big central offices where relatively few people went in. The Town Hall had about 10-15 picketing but lots of people going in. Not sure how many picketed at housing aid centre but hardley anyone went in.

The learning disability office where I work was shut so no picket. Another office was offered as there are three teams in my building three people went in there, one from my team and two union members from another team.

The three community mental health teams all had good pickets ranging from 5-10 and only one or two people going in usually RCN members. The trust sent down three private balfour beatty security guards down to one office which was clearly bonkers and made people livid.

Two adult SS offices one had a picket of about 4 with 5 people going in out of about 80 people only 1 Union member.

The other adult office which I picketed on my own until the rep arrived lots of people went in about 30 - 35 people which was very demoralising, almost 50% of workforce and lots of Union members. Only felt slightly better when senior manager came to shout in my face (my presence had some point).

Children's services mixed two good pickets, two bad. One of the good ones where we'd expected a lot of scabbing rep organised biggish picket of about 12 and loads of people refused to cross.

Transport to day services out but they still opened, one with no picket line and one with a lively picket which included service users and mostly managers trying to do proper jobs.

I've heard 'good' pickets were at Whittington and St Pancras hospitals but I don't know how effective, will ask more tomorrow. Definately need to have discussion about how a picket line can be effective.

Lots of public support and rally quite good about 300 we then marched to Lincoln's Inn Field but lost lots of people on the way.

I knew it was going to be difficult to organise picket lines and lots of people would just stay in bed or go xmas shopping but I was surprised by how many people crossed and how 'ineffective' the pickets we had were.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:26

Went to picket lines at Christies Hospital (specialist cancer hospital) and Manchester Royal Infirmary. At Christies about 40 pickets at three entrances. No union members working but treatments (presumably chemo etc) taking place. At MRI about 100 noisy pickets at the front of the hospital - most unions present including a revealing display from the Sociey of Radiographers. Picket there from early morning at least until the demo arrived at 2. Handed out some of the health bulletins people took them but I had the impression (no more) that people didn't relate to the issue of cover very directly.

The demo was big though there were differences over how big. The police apparently said 25,000 (perhaps to justify their massive overpolicing) but it was nowhere near that. At the start I reckoned about 5,000 before the education feeder joined which tallies with BBC NW Tonight saying > 5,000. So I think 5-10,000 is about right. Either way a comrade said it was the biggest march he had seen in Manchester.

By Bruce

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:29

Birkenhead demo about 1,500 - much bigger than last time. Speakers were organised by Wirral TUC - local union reps from all main unions. I spoke from Unite and Women Against the Cuts. Speeches were good; the GMB speaker asked why the Labour Party leadership wasn't backing the dispute. They weren't union bureaucrats; all talked about this being about more than just pensions and the need for more action.

I would say there were about 9,000 in Liverpool. Big turnout from Unison, NUT, PCS and Unite but smaller unions were also there. Passers by were very supportive.

By Elaine

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:31

Good turnout on picket lines (x4) at Tate Britain with 28 strikers and Tate Modern (x3) with 40 gallery workers staffing the lines - boosted at one point by the the addition of about 250, comprising Unite (Balfour Beatty @ Blackfriars?) and folk from Occupy, crossing the footbridge from St. Paul's to Bankside at mid-morning. Good discussions with Prospect first-timers; "glad to be on the picket lines for once, instead of crossing them", as one member said to me. A few PCS 'sign-ups' on the day. Good public support; not many gallery-goers, although a lot of the spaces were open (given all the private companies (6!) operating within the institution, whose workers will draw no pension and scab us out every time!). Twenty of us on the march to Victoria Embankment - shocked to see the real ring-of-steel at Trafalgar Square!! What were they expecting from us? - Numbers on march could've been between 15 - 20,000...

By Russell

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:33

I started my day on the picket line of one of Leicester's three main hospital sites. Many people still seemed oblivous to the extent of the pension cuts proposed. Unite and Unison members stood together on the picket line; something we need more of. It was unclear how many staff went in as we had nothing to compare it with. But the hospital bus which is usally standing room only was quarter full, the same with the car park, which is usually rammed. The local demo was the biggest in Leicester since the 1980s: more than 3,500. Lots of lessons to be learned for next time in terms of being organised at the hospitals, but activists long lapsed from activity were saying they want to get involved again, they were all fired up. So good start, could do better... and we will.

By Chris

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:34

Cambridge Evening News estimated 2,000 people at the noon rally today. This included feeder marches from local government and Addenbrookes hospital, as well as a student bloc formally supported by Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) but in reality organised by the Cambridge Defend Education activist group.

Speeches were of variable quality but were overwhelmingly by local trade unionists active in the workplace rather than imported bureaucrats. The march and rally were lively, and public support was evident by lines of people clapping and sounding car horns etc.

In the absence of a joint strike committee-organised rank-and-file discussion on the day, the Cambridge Occupation worked with local trade unionists to produce a leaflet inviting striking workers to join them at 4pm to discuss student-worker unity and how to take the dispute forward beyond today's strike. Occupiers sent a fleet of bikes around all the picket lines nearby in the morning to offer solidarity, discuss the strike and publicise the meeting. They also handed out leaflets at the rally.

Around 50 people attended and issues of rank-and-file control, the importance of trade union and student union democracy, and linking together trades council, student and town anti-cuts structures were debated.

By Liam

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:35

About 1,000 people were out at the town centre demo, with the local PCS branches very solid. At the tax office where over 300 work there were only 7 non-TUists who went in. The local college was less strong and many people went in well before the picket line was set up. A lot of strong anti-Labour discontent from the crowd and the speakers at the demo, specifically around the weaselling around support or non-support for the strikes with a lot if ire directed towards Stuart Bell, the local MP, who does absolutely nothing in the town.

By Martyn

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:35

I think overall the strike was pretty solid across the council, nearly all schools closed, 119 out of 131. A few crossed the picket line where I worked but not many went in, a good few new / young social workers taking strike action for the first time, with a flurry of staff joining the union for the first time to take part in action. Rally was a good few hundred, never a great turn out in Wakefield, but the biggest for a long time. My partner says Leeds was pretty damn impressive.

By Mark

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:37

Dereham is the fourth largest town in Norfolk. In the decade I've lived here I can't remember seeing a political demonstration. But today a small group of workers mainly from NUT, UNISON and GMB marched through the town with flags and banners to rally in the precinct. Members of the public applauded or sounded their car-horns in support.

Earlier, pickets were out at one of the town's two High Schools. One school had closed, the other was open only for Sixth Formers. A number of Primary Schools in the town were also closed. Across the county over half of schools are shut.

Similar marches and rallies have taken place in Kings Lynn and Lowestoft. In Norwich, reports speak of upwards of 2,000 workers marching on City Hall.

By Patrick

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:38

The TUC-organised rally in Sheffield had about 7,000 people. Awful speakers organised by the TUC. There were several feeder marches from different sectors including a school workers one, a Unite, Unison and GMB one and UCU/student one. Rally was lively and bigger than last time. There was also a march and second rally called by a local organising committee of unions. The second rally was not as well attended as people drifted away.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:40

A report I sent yesterday didn't seem to get through

Biggest demo in years in Derby apart from the recent, politically abysmal, Bombardier demo. In excess of 1,000.

There was a bit of a cock-up with the rally at the end, with only about a tenth of those on march being able to get into the tent where the rally was to be.

But we produced an all union leaflet calling for more activists to get involved in the campaign and advertising the next strike committee/ campaign meeting next Weds. These meeting have been held weekly up the date of the strike with up to 20 in attendance. I was able to announce that meeting at the rally, and on megaphones at a small informal gathering outside the rally.

I think there was some concern from many, including me, about the number crossing picket lines. Many who should have been out, didn't come out. That is very much a result of the nature of the campaign, a quite lavish campaign from UNISON in particular, but one very much run from union offices rather than active R+F branches. That doesn't explain though quite a lot of strike-breakers at the Universities from lecturers despite large picket lines and a more sympathetic response from the university authorities, with the Vice Chancellor bringing out chocolates to strikers.

But the UCU campaign was not as lively as it was last March and there wasn't much confidence even from many branch officers until very close to the day. The UCU as well as other unions need to extend their activist base.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:41

The turnout in Leeds today was the biggest for a generation. In total around 10,000 workers and supporters gathered in Victoria Gardens for a TUC rally after about 4-5,000 held a rally on Woodhouse Moor just north of the centre and then marched into the city to join the main rally. The local union branches did the speaking at the early rally whereas the regional TUC controlled who spoke at the 12 noon event.

About 90% of schools were shut and council services were largely shut down. A number of the speeches at both rallies insisted in various ways that "this is just the start", we need to name further days and we shouldn't leave it as long to the next action. Hugh Lanning (PCS) was the main speaker and declared that PCS were calling on the TUC to name a day in January asap.

By Patrick

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:43

Went to Unison's rally at Lewisham hospital. About 150 people present - all blowing whistles, so it was hard to hear the speakers. Some of the people on the rally were going back to work afterwards. Most Unison members in the hospital were not out for the whole day. Branch sec blamed this partly on large numbers of members regarding themselves as essential for patient care, though they don't seem well organised enough to have had a proper exemptions system. I had been told this was a joint rally with Lewisham local government branch, but no sign of them there.

However, there were quite a few physios members of CSP there who said almost all physios were out 5 working to provide an emergency service. They said likewise almost all OTs were out. There was a student nurse who was organising people to go up to St Thomas' and join a health worker's feeder march there. She also said she'd heard 75% of London Ambulance staff were on strike.

There were a few RCN reps who had come on their day off, they said they were planning to ballot if there's been no progress on pensions by December.

Despite what seemed to me largely ineffective action, the people at the rally were all very enthusiastic & public support was high, with horns going from passing traffic almost continuously. Overall, I don't think the staff there expect this dispute to be won by today's action, but I think many of them would be willing to go out again. Many of these people have never been ballotted before, if anything I think today's action has increased their confidence.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:45

Hospital picket very well supported with 40 present. Unison, GMB and the smaller rofessional organisations all present. Very strong turnout from physios who balloted later but polled very strongly.

General support from public very positive. Other staff such as RCN working but friendly stopping to take leaflets and chat. For such a small hospital it was very good and apparently well supported strike. Pickets ongoing until this evening inshifts with different leaflets for visitors.

The early shift then went to rally in Keighley, old mill town on edge of Bradford, organised by Trades Council with support of local LP. About 100 which again seems quite good. Two of our new hospital reps spoke and this seemed to reflect the general impression of lots of new people involved in action.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:46

Went to every picket in Brixton - 6 Council buildings as well as Town hall, Library, Lambeth college, Job centre. Most had pickets by half 6 and all grew in strength as the day wore on. Some were one person, others a crowd of 15 and there was over a hundred in front of the town hall and growing. Couple of buildings were closed with scabs secretly told to go to another one. Jobcentre was open and well staffed, 3/4 staff picketing doors. The strength of the picket (in terms of people and number of scabs) was predictably very dependant on the effort/number of the reps/union in that building in the run up. Several people who have had bad experiences with day to day trade unionism had left the union and wanted no part in the strike. Lots of people argued they couldn't afford to go on strike which was challenged by people on the picket. However generally i thought it was very impressive with good strength on most pickets and moving people around to protect weak spots. tactics matter.

Also running a photo blog on http://lambethsaveourservices.org/.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:46

There was a lively, ebullient picket of Edgware Community Hospital in Barnet this morning. Around a dozen pickets representing Unison Barnet PCT and Mental Health branch, Unison Occupational Therapists, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Society of Podiatrists were on one gate. There was another picket at the rear entrance to the hospital staffed largely by podiatrists. The branches represented had also organised a picket at Finchley Memorial Hospital.

I spoke to the branch secretary and chair of the Unison Barnet PCT and Mental Health branch, Rena Nunes and Sylvia Salter.

They were happy with the level of emergency cover they had negotiated with management. "We have made sure there is a safe level of cover for patients. Patient security is paramount." They told me that some clinic appointments had been cancelled, but said the wards, district nurse service and walk-in centre were still open. I said that seemed a rather high level of service and asked whether they were confident their action was effective; wasn't it more of a protest than a strike?

They seemed confident that the action was worthwhile in spite of this. I asked them what they thought should be done next to win their dispute. They were confident with the Unison strategy, calling it a "rolling programme". I'm not sure whether this is what Unison is planning. Given that the increased pensions contributions are due to start in April, I asked whether they would expect to see more action early in the New Year. Yes, they thought another one-day strike was likely.

They thought that the Royal College of Nursing might be balloting for action in January, and that it had been losing members to Unison.

They said nursing is an ageing profession.

They were particularly concerned about the impact on women workers of the pensions changes. Sylvia said: "The change to career average pensions will particularly hit women, who have periods off work to have children. The Government says the changes will not affect workers earning less than £15k, but that is the figure for full-time workers. There is no protection for part-time workers, who are mostly women."

"This recession is all about women," said Rena.

The strikers had been buoyed by public support, including drinks brought by the local pharmacy and residents.

By Vicki Morris

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:49

Town Hall - people were in high spirits but pissed off because side doors had been opened so people were getting in without passing pickets. Mostly admin workers from what I could tell.

Bannerdale Centre - council training and office facility, picket of 5 people, all Unison bar one NUT.

Hallam Uni Adsets Centre - picket of 6 ppl, upbeat despite students crossing.

Central library - 2 pickets of 4 and very angry and militant. Was there before library due to open but they were convinced it would remain shut but gallery above might open.

Hallamshire Hospital - main entrance picket of 13 again mainly support staff. Jessop Wing - picket of 9. Chatted to some support staff facing redundancy and they had only joined union last week.

Sheffield Uni Firth Court picket of 8, all lecturers. Students crossing in swarms and ignoring pickets.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:51

PCS picket lines:

Mix of reps and ordinary members, strong and cheerful pickets. About 18 crossed for Cavendish Court JobCentre out of a staff of 160, so they're all non-members that crossed.

Hartshead Sq has a staff of 600, big regional management sections. Very solid throughout frontline sections.

Stood outside the JobCentre on the street for a while, lots of honking buses and the CWU rep who came to see us said most of them had taken the day off work in Royal Mail. Managed to turn the sanitary waste removal and post vans away.

Interesting point - most public buses were empty all morning, shows effect on wider society.

By Rosie

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:52

60 pickets over 3 entrances at HRI. A lot of first timers and not very confident about stopping people crossing. Keen to chat about future. RCN and non union covering work. Some rcn have joined unison recently.

Biggest effect seems to have been from caterers and canteen staff staying out.

A lot of people have day off and have said if they were scheduled to work they would. Young workers see this as a protest and want to stress they would be working because of patient care being compromised. A lot told they couldn't strike if worked in ICU or similar jobs.

Managers sent emails to some social work staff based in hospital telling them they weren't able to strike.

By Steve

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:52

Lively pickets at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield with pickets standing in the middle of the entrance road to attempt to stop people driving in easily. Good mixture of unions workibg together. Lively debate on where next with members angry at lack of information from top, agreed strategy needed to fight against any sell out.

School picket at Winterhill in Rotherham. Organised as a picket for branch activists descend upon. Lack of strategy for persuading people not to scab. Good conversation about need to try and unionise support staff who were going in.

By Gemma

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:53

At the Sidgwick Site at the University of Cambridge with UCU members and students from the occupation. All entrances are well covered by pickets but with a few exceptions, it's been very difficult to persuade people not to cross.

In an episode of tragic irony, a lecture by a scab member of the UCU in the Faculty of Economics is going ahead on industrial relations. The students are the ideological shock troops-in-training for the ruling class but we managed to persuade a few to walk out.

By Liam

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:54

In a massive show of opposition to the Lib-Dem attacks on pensions, over 20,000 people demonstrated in Glasgow – more than four times the number expected by the organisers. The back of the march was still waiting to set off when the front of the demonstration had reached the venue for the closing rally.

Probably the biggest contingent on the demonstration was school teachers – taking their first strike action in around a quarter of a century. The other big contingents were Unison (local government and health) and PCS.

A contingent of Labour MPs and MSPs (plus a couple of SNP MSPs) joined the demonstration. (And not all of them were contenders in the current Scottish Labour Party leader and deputy leader elections.)

The speeches at a rousing concluding rally were heavy on denouncing the unjustness of the government’s attacks on public sector pensions, but light on how the day’s strike action would be followed up.

There was a lot of talk of the need for a negotiated settlement to the conflict with the government. GMB Scottish Regional Secretary Harry Donaldson called for “a rational, credible and socially acceptable solution”, whatever that might be.

The nearest any of the speakers got to specifying what forms of action might lie ahead was Lynn Henderson, PCS Scottish Regional Secretary. There was a meeting between the public sector unions and the TUC in a fortnight, she said, and if no progress had been made than there would be further strike action in the New Year.

Impressive as both the demonstration and rally were, the initiative for what comes next still les with the union bureaucracies.

Attempts to set up a network of rank-and-file activists in Glasgow in the run-up to 30th November never get off the ground, and plans to have only striking workers speaking at the closing rally gradually gave way to a platform consisting in the main of Regional Secretaries.

In other parts of Scotland support for the strike appears to have been as solid as in Glasgow. Well-supported demonstrations were staged in Dundee and Aberdeen, and over 8,000 people took part in a demonstration in front of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Inside the Parliament Labour and Green MSPs were absent – they had agreed to ‘strike’ for the day, by attending local demonstrations and donating a day’s pay to the striking workers.

First Minister Alex Salmond and Finance Secretary John Swinney, on the other hand, had no compunction about crossing picket lines. The SNP line is to condemn the Tories’ attacks on public sector pensions, but not to support strike action.

As Swinney put it in an interview earlier today: “I don’t support the strike action – and I’ve already crossed a picket line to come into St. Andrew’s House. I did that because it’s my duty as a minister in the Scottish Government to carry out my responsibilities on behalf of the people.”

The hypocrisy of the SNP’s position was summed up by Green MSP Patrick Harvie: “On a day like today I don’t think it’s possible for a political party to be on the right side of the argument and on the wrong side of the picket line.”

Submitted by martin on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:55

Pickets at main council offices in Islington reckoned only about 10% going in. A less good response at the Town Hall, where many senior managers went in. Upper Street had much less pedestrian and vehicle traffic than usual, which must reflect people striking or staying at home because their children's schools are shut. Lots of smaller picket lines round the place, some at places where I hadn't expected them (for example, Finsbury Tower, which contains the offices of the Care Quality Commission. Pickets there reported a good response... except from bankers who also have office space in the tower). Some hundreds of Camden NUT members gathered in Russell Square to march to Lincolns Inn Fields. (Maybe twenty from my school, South Camden - including five maths teachers...) Much chanting and some dancing on the way to Lincolns Inn Fields.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 22:55

Public sector workers across Colchester manned picket lines forcing a number of schools to close, and causing disruption at the general hospital, Essex University, and even police stations.

As well as pickets mounted by the UCU, NUT, NASUWT, Unite, Unison, PCS and other health unions, postal workers in the CWU refused to cross lines to deliver mail and some students came out in solidarity.

Non-warranted staff at police stations held pickets protesting about their pay and pensions, and recent changes to station opening hours which they said could leave people vulnerable late at night.

Interestingly one police officer who came to a picket line to make sure workers weren’t being abused (following an incident elsewhere) said he supported the strike, and said if cops could they would be on strike over their own pay and conditions.

All of the pickets were positive, and some had held discussions about future action, although many seemed to be waiting for the next step to come down from union leadership.

A march leading to a rally was held in Colchester town centre with speakers from different unions on the platform.

There were similar rallies in other parts of Essex, such as Chelmsford and Southend.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 23:11

Huge turn out at NE march in Newcastle - 10-15,000. But the local TUC bureaucrats gave in to police and directed march to Gateshead/Newcastle quayside where no one could see it. There was a feeder march from Newcastle Uni (where btw Unison members weren't balloted!) with lecturers and students, initiated by AWL members/supporters, which went through centre of town and got a really good response. If the whole, much bigger, demo had gone though it would have had a huge impact. After rally, at which Bob Crow spoke (RMT members on the local metro are on strike), a group of anarchisty/direct action/student activists took action in town. But really good day, despite ridiculous routing of march.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 23:34

Picket lines in the west of the borough (Mile End, Whitechapel, Stepney Green) generally lively and upbeat. Most pickets had at least 6 people on them and some (e.g. Toby Lane Contract Services Depot) had more than 10. Many school picket lines were mounted mainly by Unison members - i.e. low-paid support staff - rather than teachers. NUT in the borough have an odd history of not putting on pickets. Many picket lines were all women. There were a few scabs at most workplaces but no schools were able to function normally and many were shut entirely. Excellent picket line at Poplar Ambulance Depot on Toby Lane/Harford Street with workers controlling life-and-limb cover from the picket line itself. Good showing from Tower Hamlets workers on the main central London march too.

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 30/11/2011 - 23:42

From AWL members at Royal Holloway University of London:

At 1.18 pm on Tuesday 30th November, around 30 students from Royal Holloway University of London entered occupation of the management corridor at Royal Holloway University. This action takes place on a day that three million public sector workers have taken strike action over unjustified and politically motivated pension reforms. Students have entered occupation in protest against cuts to education and public services. The university education of students in under attack as a result of the Higher Education White Paper entitled; “Students at the Heart of the System”, when the report in fact goes as far away from this concept as possible.

The reforms can be broadly understood as a hurried and jumbled attempt at opening a market in the higher education sector; remodelling students as consumers and universities as service providers. The Higher Education White Paper is one of the most drastic and far reaching reforms proposed to any public service for decades. The White Paper strikes a significant blow to access and social mobility. Their potential to impact on the most under-represented groups is overwhelming and cannot be ignored; the proposals threaten to strengthen a systemic bias and will reinforce a university education as a positional good reserved for the elite in society.

A pledge has been issued to the Principal of Royal Holloway University, Professor Paul Layzell demanding the following points which can be found here.

A number of demands have also been issued;
• Senior Management Team withdraw staff redundancy notices and end the restructuring plans
• Free access in and out of the occupation for all students and lecturers
• No victimization of student occupiers or lecturers supporting the occupation

We urge all students, lecturers and staff on campus to join the occupation in protest against the Education White Paper and all it stands for. The protest will be peaceful and will provide a forum for students to discuss the issues of the changes proposed to the education system. The occupation has been aimed in order to have minimum impact against the education of students on campus.

So now what?

Students intend to remain in occupation until the pledge has been accepted by the Principal. We urge all students, lecturers and staff to attend the occupation. We are unsure at this time how long the occupation will last, which means that we need YOU, students of the university to join in, in order to apply pressure to the University Management. If you want to attend then all are welcome. Bring some food and drink, music, and yes you can even bring your WORK with you to do whilst in occupation! If you want to stay during the night then please bring a sleeping bag and pillow with you.

Please join and share this group with others and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to post them and they will be answered promptly. Or of course you can come along to the occupation and ask them in person!

Please also like the Facebook Page in order to show your support for this action:, or alternatively, follow us on Twitter with @occupyRHUL and hashtag - #occupyRHULl

We urge everyone to support and get involved with this occupation.
United We Stand!

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 01/12/2011 - 00:14

600 on the streets of Kingston, picking up pickets to the biggest cheer you can imagine as each one joined in the march, the 12 year old boy who spoke so eloquently at the rally of cuts to his art course. To the cheers to the rafters of first time strikers. Then the enormous London rally of nearly 50,000 I thought, the lack of a voice from
chanting to just the best road trip this evening to a CWU owned hotel for a union equality conference in Bournemouth and a concentrated period of convincing Kenny to name a date in January. What a day today. What a fucking day. I'm shattered. For everyone who helped make Kingston happen today, thank you so very much. I'll never forget it.

Submitted by martin on Fri, 02/12/2011 - 20:09

15,000 marched through City to a rally at the National Indoor Area. More than half the City's 439 schools were closed. All major bin depots picketed as mangement had brought pressure to bear on casuals to break the strike. Pickets out at some schools. Admin staff (UNISON) picketed the Birmingham Police HQ, LLoyd House. Noticeable support from public, some of whom joined the march.

Widespead understanding that one-day "spectaculars" would be insufficient and that ongoing, rolling/selective action will. be required if the government is to be forced to back down.

Jim Denham

Submitted by AWL on Sat, 03/12/2011 - 01:12

Although numbers striking at Leicester's hospitals were probably quite small, there were good picket lines at all three sites, and several hundred healthworkers joined a march of well over 5,000 through the city centre. This was comfortably the biggest march Leicester has seen for thirty years or more.

Schools across the county were mostly shut. Local government and university union branches seemed well represented on the rally.

There was lots of discussion about what needs to happen next, and, as this video shows, a very lively rally with some relatively good speeches.


Submitted by martin on Mon, 05/12/2011 - 07:31

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital members of Unison, Unite, the Society of Radiographers, British Association of Occupational Therapists and Chartered Society of Physiotherapists picketed all the entrances from 7.30 to 9.30am. Although, regrettably, few people were persuaded not to cross the picket lines there was an encouraging level of support from patients and some non-striking staff.

Areas within NNUH which were particularly solid were reported to be: Sterile Services, Radiology, Physiotherapy, the pathology labs and theatres. It's difficult to tell how many walked out across other areas, but it appears that enough admin and clerical staff struck for management to have to bring staff over from the Trust's city centre administrative offices to cover some of the absences.

At 10am about 100 people staged a demo outside the Day Procedure Unit. About 50 joined the march from City College to City Hall. The Norwich Evening News, generally no friend to organised workers, estimated 3000 people joined this march, the biggest the city has seen in at least a generation. Flags from all the participating unions were visible, with Unite, Unison, PCS and NUT particularly prominent. At City Hall local and national union officials spoke (see video-link below). A UEA student rightly connected the decision to close the university's music-school to the more general marketisation of education and the assault on education and welfare as public goods.

Reports suggest that 200 out of 250 staff at the main DSS office in the city were on strike and 80% of staff at the Inland Revenue's Land Valuation offices were also out.
This week will see a strike at the famous Coleman's plant in the city. This offers Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts a chance to support private sector workers and so make visible the shared interests of workers in all sectors of the economy, and strengthen the case for co-ordinated cross-union action to defeat the government's austerity drive.

Norwich strike-rally video:

from an activist in Norwich

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 07/12/2011 - 12:40

Click the attachment at the bottom of the article at the top for a bulletin reporting on the successful picket lines at Lambeth Council (south London).

Submitted by AWL on Wed, 07/12/2011 - 17:29

By a SY ambulance worker

At my workplace, an ambulance station in Sheffield, all non emergency workers were on strike. Emergency workers did life and limb cover from the picket line, answering potentially life threatening calls only. We ran the picket line for 12 hours.

Some of those striking and nearly all emergency workers from my station, including those on day off and rotaed leave, came down for a period of time and we had at least 20 people all day. From speaking to people at other stations in Sheffield and reports across Yorkshire this picture was reflected across the board.

It was a fantastic atmosphere, partly because, since the introduction of roadside standby for calls, there are few opportunities for people to get together at work. The day was a complete eye opener for many. Only 3 people had been on a picket line before and 4 people at my station alone expressed an interest in becoming stewards and there have been alot of other enquiries in the branch.

There was lots of talk about what we should do next, with most in favour of escalating the action (which for some meant not providing emergency cover next time.) People are now more confident to take further action in this dispute and against the trust over proposed attacks on other terms and conditions issues within the year. Tho I think it's still early days and getting sustained action will still take another load of arguments and persuading.

Our branch agreed to provide emergency cover, which I had argued for, most members wanted and the national union strongly recommended for emergency services. For us this meant call takers and dispatchers were given exemption from striking. Life threatening calls only were sent to crews. It was agreed that all emergency workers were on full pay for the day. This varied across the country for example in London LAS offered half pay and alot of people took full strike action rather than provdidng life and limb cover. Locally the union is asking paid workers to donate their days pay to strike fund. We'll need to think how life and limb cover can be done under more union control for the longer term.

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