From 7am Socialist Party members in Bradford were out supporting civil servants, lecturers and teachers taking strike action against the government’s attacks on pensions. We visited picket lines at the combined court, CPS office, both HMRC offices, all three DWP offices and Bradford College receiving a warm welcome at all of them.
The combined courts car park was virtually empty when it would usually be rapidly filling up, whilst at the Leeds Road DWP office pickets reported that hardly anyone had gone in, less than even the best supported strikes in recent years, possibly not enough to make up one team. At the HMRC contact centre pickets estimated that around 90% of staff had stayed out.
These impressions were confirmed further when we attended an over 200 strong teachers rally against the cuts at Valley Parade. Several ATL speakers referred to a dislike of banners, placards and other things associated with protests and how they had consciously joined a union which didn’t strike, but the pensions deal was a step too far for them resulting in today’s historic action for them. Several teachers in singled out that the bankers who caused the economic crisis and the politicians who bailed them out have much higher pensions than the public sector workers they are expecting to bail them out.
Several young teachers spoke about how the pension cuts would affect them, in particular explaining how difficult it would be for them to purchase a house (one had even said she had given up on this). Whilst many schools weren’t picketed, Ian Murch, Bradford NUT secretary reported that they had 25 picketing Bradford Academy where large numbers of young teachers had recently joined.
Unfortunately one ATL speaker, whilst stating his unequivocal opposition to the pension attacks, said that it was necessary to make cuts in public sector spending relative to GDP. This was taken up rapidly by the following speaker, Geriant Evans, Branch Secretary of the local UCU Community Education branch, putting forward the need to collect the tax dodged by large corporations and other alternate economic policies to the cuts. He also went on to condemn the statement of Ed Miliband opposing the strike to massive applause.
The entire meeting then marched into town to link up with PCS members and UCU members at Bradford College for a lunchtime rally with approximately 400 attending, the first outdoor strike day rally for sometime in Bradford, with speakers from all the striking unions including Joel Heyes of the PCS NEC.