UnionNews reports from picket lines in Bristol and Glasgow

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Strikers on picket lines in Bristol this morning believe there will be further strikes unless the government resolves the pensions issue.

Members of PCS, UCU and Unite were outside the city’s hospitals, offices and courts from 6am, handing out leaflets and talking to members of the public. The mood was one of anger, defiance and resiliance.

Unite rep Jan Fellows, striking at the Ministry of Defence at Abbeywood, told UnionNews: “This is just a taster strike. There are more strikes on the way.”

And PCS rep Bev Anderson, who joined strikers outside the Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: “This is the start of something big. We have to stand firm on this. I’m a woman and I’m a disabled person, and I don’t think I’ll be able to work until I’m 68. My government has not consulted me on this and they have refused to get round the table with my union.”

Bev Anderson works in the court service and was proud to report that, for the first time, all three courts – county, crown and magistrates – had picket lines outside.

She said: “These are public services and they’re under threat. We’re concerned about pensions but also about privatising the collection of fines, which we believe should remain in the public sector, rather than be handed over to bully boy bailffs and big business.”

The UCU also had picket lines at colleges across the city. Rep Pete Wearden said: “It’s not just about pensions. It’s also about austerity, attacks on pay, pressure on the job. People are very angry.”

Pickets outside the BRI said they were being well-supported by members of the public.

Unite rep Chrissie Gardner said: “I’ve been here since 7am and we’ve given out 600 leaflets to passers-by, and they’re very much in support of what we’re doing.”

Back at the MoD, PCS rep Steve Robinson said: “These attacks on our pensions are grossly unfair on each and every civil servant. The mood on the picket line is very good and there may well be more strikes to come.”

Asked what had provoked MoD workers to strike, Unite official Hugh Kirkbridge replied: “Let me give you an example of what will happen to defence firefighters. Someone who is now 40 will have to work seven years longer, will have to pay an additional £23,000 in pension contributions, then when he or she retires, if they live for another ten years after retirement, will receive £30,000 less in benefits. That’s a difference of almost £60,000, plus working seven years longer.”

“We’re striking for you” – was the message from local government workers taking to picket lines in Glasgow today.

Mounting picket lines from 7.30am this morning, workers from vital sectors that deal with benefits and passports braved poor weather and an overwhelmingly hostile media to demand the reopening of negotiations with the government over pension changes.

Workers from the Glasgow passport office in Cowcaddens were in good spirits with PCS representatives claiming 90 percent of their members in building had respected the picket line.

PCS Branch chair Charlie Liddle told Union News: “This strike about trying to get the government to negotiate. we think that is a reasonable objective and a reasonable thing to ask for.”

“Personally my pension contributions are set to increase by 300 percent. That is not something any sensible person would accept that.”

He threw cold water on suggestions that public sector workers should accept poorer pensions and conditions as private sector workers also feel the squeeze of austerity.

“Our members voted to reject the pensions offer and that is why we are here today,” he added.

“We’re not striking in a selfish way.

“Some say we have gold plated pensions. It is true that they are better than those in the private sector. But this is about fair pensions for all.

“Just because private sector pensions are being lowered doesn’t mean public sector pensions should be lowered as well.”

Fellow PCS rep Sharon Edwards suggested that the government tackle tax evasion and avoidance by the rich which independent economists calculate at £120bn a year.

“The average civil service pension is 80 pound a week. It is not gold plated,” she pointed out.

“They should be listening to the PCS and other unions. we should be claiming back the uncollected tax by tax dodgers at the top. Tackle them first.”


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