N30: Medway Workers Striking for Fair Pensions

Trish Marchant says: Medway Greens and Medway Against the Cuts (MAC) were out in full support of the public sector strikers yesterday. As a union member and NHS employee I chose to join the picket line at my place of work and it was not an easy decision. Losing a days pay so close to Christmas yet knowing that I would still have the work to do when I went back to the office today was tough. However in reality it pales into insignificance when you think that under this governments pension attack I will be paying an extra 50% into my pension every year for the next 20 years to retire later for less in a country where support for the elderly will itself be a luxury.

In fact I went on strike not for me but for the millions of low paid, mainly women, workers some of who cant even afford to pay into the scheme as it is, let alone as it will become. Public sector pensions may become a memory for many as their wages lose value (through the pay freeze and capped increases) and they have to choose between paying bills now or getting a pension many years hence.

As for N30, midnight saw a gathering of strikers start their day outside various other public sector offices across the towns. For me the day itself began with a 6am picket on a cold, dark, clear morning outside Medway Hospital. Then a 2 hour stint on the MAC stall and further leafletting. Non- striking staff and visitors to the site were, in the majority, supportive. Toots, waves and thumbs up were the order of the day. It flies in the face of claims by Mr Cameron that the public were unsupportive of industrial action.

Meanwhile over at Gun Wharf similar action was taking place with an early morning picket moving to a march to the Command House where the main rally took place. Just like the teachers strike in the summer, for many workers it was the first time they had ever taken such action. As one council worker said “This is about  decent pensions for all but as well as the attack on our pensions we also want to draw attention to the government’s attacks on welfare and public services. People are angry about cuts to jobs and services which will harm the most vulnerable”.

Unison managed to muscle in on the Rochester Dickensian festival, dressed as paupers they were highlighting how the government was effectively sending millions of workers back to the 19th century.

The strike brought out the true feelings of some:  from Jeremy Clarkson who felt that all these brave, caring women and men should be shot, to Ed Miliband who was too scared to openly support the strike, to the lovely David Cameron, our unelected prime minister, who clearly thinks we are all one, big working class joke.

November 30th was an historic day for Medway’s local government officers, hospital employees and teaching staff. Ignore the Daily Mail, the Tory ministers, the weak Labour shadows, and focus on your hard pressed public sector workers for whom this was a huge step into the unknown.

And thanks to everyone for their support.

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