Members of Socialist Resistance and other socialist organisations joined with public sector workers, lecturers and students from Brighton University and Sussex University and union and student union reps to plan for and build support for 30 November.
The 30 November strike – which will be the mightiest industrial action since 1926- is mainly over the government attack on public sector pensions, but speakers repeatedly linked the struggle over pensions with the struggle against the neoliberal/ ConDem (and NewLabour) attacks on the Welfare State, on benefits, and on public services through privatisation (of hospitals, of universities). Speakers also attacked the government for changing the very purpose of education- from individual and social fulfilment- across the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as Science and Technology and Business Studies. Education’s critical edge (and subjects) are being replaced by a narrow focus on `education for work’.
On Pensions, Carol Hanson (UNISON rep at Brighton University pointed out that under the ConDem law and plans, public sector workers will be working longer, paying more per month, to get a substantially reduced pension. Carol’s public sector pension would cost her an EXTRA 3% of her salary- an extra £90 a month on top of her existing public sector occupational pension. For that she- and millions of others- public sector retirement ages are being harmonised with the State Old Age Pension age of retirement- will receive far less! Public Sector pensions will, in future, be based, not on the final career salary, but on a career average salary- substantially less! In addition, public sector pension increases will be tied to the CPI (Consumer Prices Index) instead of the RPI (Retail Price Index). The CPI has a lower inflation rate, so pension increases will be lower too!.
This is theft and robbery .. It is little known that the Local Government Pension Scheme is not subsidised at all by the taxpayer- it is fully self-funding. So the ConDem changes are a straight tax- an extra tax- on public sector workers..
Carol (and the other speakers) called for a united action across all the different sectors of public service. Various speakers also called for private sector workers to support the action, too, and for students to join the picket lines and express solidarity with the strikers.
Speakers such as Carol, and Phil Clarke (NUT district secretary/ SP), Dave Hill (TUSC and UCU and SR) also highlighted that the 30 November one day public sector strike was a beginning, not the end- it needs to be the beginning of a long campaign. In the words of some speakers, not just to protest at the pension changes/ theft, b not just to oppose the attacks by all three main parties (Tories, LibDems and Labour) on the Welfare State and Public Sector, but also to replace the three of them, to forge ahead with a socialist alternative to neoliberalism and to Capitalism.
Dave Hill said that last term he was teaching at two different universities- Middlesex University in London, and the University of Athens in Greece.
`This term, I am teaching at neither. But for very different reasons. At Middlesex University most of my hours have been cut as part of 300 full-time equivalent redundancies across the university workforce. A result of government cuts / policy on higher education. At Athens University.
I am not teaching for a very different reason. Universities in Greece are closed for a very different reason! They are occupied by staff and students against the cuts and changes in higher education! That’s what we should do here- occupy all universities and colleges… and , like in Greece, recognise that a one day general strike is not enough… it’s necessary to have a united and cumulative and lengthy campaign uniting workers, students, campaigning groups on the model of Occupy Wall Street and UKUncut, and socialist/ Marxist groups, with the strength of the organised working class and its trade unions.’