The public sector workers strike in NI - Organise for a General strike


Up to 200,000 public sector workers took part in the largest one-day industrial action in Northern Ireland in decades along with millions across the UK, demonstrating that when we withdraw our labour and stand together in defence of our rights we have real strength. Belfast was a sea of red and colourful rainbow coalition trade union flags for a change, as up to 15,000 workers rallied outside the city hall against the cuts and attacks on pensions. From the early morning, picket lines  involving public sector workers from transport workers to teachers dotted the city’s landscape in a show of unity.


The WSM, Organise! and Derry Anarchists attended pickets from the early morning as striking workers but also in support and solidarity, and later took part in the main rally on the day, including a banner drop as feeder parades arrived from all parts of the city. The mood throughout the day was one of confidence and defiance. However, on its own, a one-day strike will only express our anger and let off a bit of steam. It is not enough if we want to actually defeat the ongoing attacks on our pay and conditions - attacks which are affecting all workers and the unemployed. This was again highlighted on the eve of the strike when the Chancellor announced a further pay freeze for two years and a rise in the state pension age to 67.

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 effective action; sitting down for tea and biscuits on the hill in Stormont is delivering nothing but more of the same: the hammering of working class people. Taking back control of OUR unions from below is part and parcel of the fight to defend what we have won over the years.

Stormont serves the rich and their masters in London offering us no alternative. 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%. The battle lines have clearly been marked and the next weeks and months will be crucial in building a militant mass campaign which is opposed to all cuts and attacks on services, controlled by rank and file workers and independent of all opportunist political parties who are only interested in elections. A victory on the pensions for public sector workers builds towards the fight needed to win a victory for all workers.

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.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 125, Jan/Feb 2012