N30 strike round up for northern Ireland

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Biggest rally in decades outside Belfast city hall Up to 200,000 public sector workers took part in the one day industrial action across Northern Ireland along with millions in the rest of the UK. Trains and buses were halted along with about 400 schools being closed with Irish Congress of Trade Unions assistant general secretary Peter Bunting predicting at the rally that ‘people are going away more determined to oppose the cuts coming down the line.’

 

Belfast was a sea of red and colourful rainbow coalition trade union flags for a change as up to 15,000 workers rallied on Wednesday against the cuts and attacks on pensions. From the early morning picket lines dotted the city’s landscape involving transport workers to teachers in a show of strength and solidarity.

The WSM, Organise! And Derry anarchists attended pickets from the early morning as striking workers and also in support and solidarity, and later took pat in the main rally on the day in which feeder parades arrived from all parts of the city. The mood throughout the day was one of confidence and defiance.

At the gates of Stormont all the unionist politicians crossed the picket lines to attend departmental meetings. Sinn Fein and the SDLP in a gesture of populism did not but the Sinn Fein presence on the main march in Belfast was booed and heckled. Despite their rhetoric and intention to not cross any picket lines, all our local political parties are committed to implementing these vicious anti-working class cuts and the wider neo-liberal agenda of slashing and privatising public services by making us pay for the greed and crimes of the 1%. It should be clear by now that Stormont offers us no alternative and is part of the problem, and that our trade union leadership sitting down for tea and biscuits on the hill is delivering nothing but more but the same hammering of working class people. 

The day before Sinn Fein and the rest of the executive clearly laid their colours to the tory banner when the Sinn Fein minister John O’Dowd announced further cuts to school budgets. Multi million pound cuts are to be made in the next three years with 180 million due to be taken away from schools by 2014.  This could could result in a up to 1,000 teachers and 3,000 classroom assistants losing their jobs.

On top of a freeze in public sector pay for two years, a drop in pay in real terms when you take into account rising cost of living and inflation, which was announced in George Osbourne’s autumn statement on the eve of the strike, comes a rise in the state pension age to 67 from 2034 to 2026.

The battle lines have clearly been marked and the next weeks and months will be crucial in building a mass movement against cuts in services and attacks on our standard living. However, if we want to win, we need to recognise that being right isn’t enough. Unfortunately, our society is not a debating chamber where everyone is given an equal voice, and the decisions that affect our lives are not taken on moral grounds. Our rulers don’t care about doing right by us. What they care about is power and wealth, and supporting the interests they represent. If we want to change the world, we will have to empower ourselves through direct action in every aspect of our daily lives.

As stated in the WSM leaflet distributed in Belfast and Derry
‘Solidarity and support for strike action needs to built across all workplaces unionised or not and in our communities where we are feeling the impact of these devastating cuts on our standard of living if we want to win. In the short-term we need to be organising for rolling strike action including go-slows and ultimately an indefinite general strike. Such action is needed because history shows us that those at the top will concede little of significance without such mass resistance.

Lobbying politicians and marching from A-B has limited returns and can even add to the pervading sense of powerlessness. Politicians, like our trade union leadership, cannot be trusted and will work to police and sabotage any affective action. Taking back control of OUR unions from below is part and parcel of the fight to defend what we have won over the years.’