Up to 40,000 public sector workers in Scotland shut down local government offices in strike against Coalition government’s pension plans
Joining 400,000 workers across Britain in the nationwide day of action, tax office staff, lecturers and MoD workers from the major cities to the most remote parts of Scotland came out onto the streets to urge Westminster to change course.
30,000 Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members took to picket lines from 6am outside the Scottish Parliament and tax offices before ending with a mass rally in Glasgow.
Addressing the 200 strong gathering, PCS president, Janice Godrich warned ministers in London that the issue is “not going away.”
“Pay, pensions and jobs are being cut not because pensions are unaffordable but so the government can give tax breaks to the super rich and big business,” she said to repeated applause.
“A week ago, hundreds of thousands of people gave their verdict on the Coalition government at the ballot box. And today hundreds of thousands of people are giving their verdicts at picket lines and strike rallies.
“Our pensions are fair, they are affordable.”
Relations between the government and militant trade unions are at a new low with ministers insisting that negotiations are closed and that public sector pensions need reform in to help bring down the deficit.
However unions are adamant that according to the government’s own report led by former Labour Minister Lord Hutton, public sector pensions will continue to fall when measured as a percentage of GDP.
Attempting to shed light on the real agenda of the government, Janice Goodrich told workers: “This is about privatisation.”
“Danny Alexander stood up in Parliament and told the House he was cutting our pensions to make them “substantially more attractive to alternative providers.” And we know who they will be.
“They will be those who have bank-rolled the Tory party to date.”
UCU Scottish Secretary Mary Senior said lecturers were “proud” to stand shoulder to shoulder with the PCS and other unions fighting the pension changes.
Chair of Balfour Beatty branch of PCS, Stuart Franklin, whose members are amongst many who have been outsourced from the public to the private sector drew huge applause from the rally as he announced they had taken strike action for the first time today.
Bizarrely, Balfour Beatty management attempted to bribe striking workers with “free cakes” if they crossed the picket line.
He mocked the unsuccessful attempt adding: “You should have heard the laughter around the office at this initiative.”
And in a surprise move, 2,500 Scottish Prison Officers took industrial action in solidarity until 2.30pm on Thursday.
It is illegal for Prison officers in England and Wales to take industrial action, but not in Scotland.
Scottish POA Scottish National Chairman Phil Fairlie said: “We believe the UK Government owes our members a duty of care and the right to retire with dignity in a good state of mental and physical health and not to be subjected to the stressful and demanding environment of a prison in their elder years. A pension age of 68 is simply not acceptable to this union.”
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