Friday, July 1, 2011

Public Sector Workers’ General Strike in Britain

Over 750,000 British public sectors workers stayed home from work yesterday in the largest public sector strike in decades. As a result, 6,000 schools were closed and 5,000 more were partially shut down, according to Democracy Now, over half the nation’s total. Additionally, airports, courthouses, benefits offices, galleries and museums were also disrupted, The Guardian reported. Even UK Border Agents walked off the job at Heathrow.

The workers were protesting the gutting of their state-sponsored pension plans, which will result in a large de facto pay cut now, more years on the job before eligible for retirement, and less money in their pockets when they do retire. Younger workers will have to work until they are 68 under the new plan and pay 50% more toward their pensions each month than workers currently pay. According to the Teacher Solidarity blog, teachers will have suffered a 12% de facto pay cut by next April with the increases in pension payments factored in.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) carried banners demanding "Fair Pensions for All," in a show of solidarity with other workers in the private sector.  Joining NUT were two other teachers unions, ATL and UCU, and the civil service union, PCS. Rallies and demonstrations were held throughout the country. In Scotland, a nuclear submarine base was impacted by the strike. Many of the protesters demanded that the rich bankers bail out the nation.

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