“The message to Stormont and Westminster was clear – ‘hands off our Public Services’”

Walton Pantland Ireland, UK, GMB-NWI,
Denise Walker GMB Organiser, addresses the demonstration on behalf of the GMB outside Belfast City Hall

Denise Walker GMB Organiser, addresses the demonstration on behalf of the GMB outside Belfast City Hall

Recently, the buses and trains are at a standstill, clinics are empty, children are absent from school… it’s not a script from a horror movie it’s a revolt involving tens of thousands of public sector workers across Northern Ireland who took strike action to oppose the cuts planned in the Stormont House Agreement and Assembly budget.

GMB members joined in the action on the day with workers in Translink, (the public transport company), Health Service workers, school support staff and Northern Ireland Civil Service workers on strike.

Members are angry at the Government proposals to borrow £700 million to ‘invest’ in redundancies that will see upwards of 20,000 jobs cut from the public sector. Northern Ireland’s public sector is already under serious pressure and many staff are under considerable stress, hospital wards and ED departments are already operating at dangerously low staffing levels. The Stormont House Agreement will also see the implementation of stringent welfare reforms in exchange for the fiscal power to determine corporation tax. The rate favoured by the politicians is 12.5% in line with the Republic of Ireland, however this policy, if adopted will see the block grant decimated to repay the subsidy to big corporations back to treasury. Big companies that already do everything in their power to avoid paying taxes will be given a hand out at the expense of our schools, hospitals, transport and community services.

Strike action was complemented on the day with mass rallies and marches taking place throughout Northern Ireland. Belfast saw crowds of around 10,000 march through the city centre for a rally at the City Hall addressed by Denise Walker GMB Organiser and by GMB young member and president of the Union of Students Ireland, Rebecca Hall. Rebecca called the politians irresponsible for gambling with the future of our young people to give big businesses a tax cut. She led the crowd in chants of ‘Shame on Them’ Denise said ‘We are fighting for our communities, our rights to a decent life, decent education and decent health service. We are fighting to protect our public transport system and not just the jobs that make up the public sector but the vital services that rely on these jobs being done. We are fighting too for a strong private sector which will only too soon see the toxic effect of huge job loses in the public sector.

In Derry/Londonderry, Jim Donley, GMB Organiser addressed the rally at the Guildhall. Jim on the subject of the rebalancing exercise of the public sector in Northern Ireland told the crowd, “In truth the rebalancing they talk about is one of zero hour contracts, minimum wages, pound shops and food banks as the thousands of working poor continue to grow poorer

“The message to Stormont and Westminster was clear – ‘hands off our Public Services'”

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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