Blackout on saying the 'S' word in the City of Broad Shoulders?... Biggest Strike in 30 years hits Great Britain, ignored in Chicago press

While the small number of videos and photos from Greece finally made it through to Chicago, the largest strike in more than a generation in England received the customary blackout in Chicago's corporate media on December 1, 2011. Briefly: The unions shut down England on Wednesday. Chicago's two daily newspapers ignored it on Thursday.

But here's some of the reports from elsewhere.

'Biggest strike in a generation' for Britain's public

sector workers


More than two thirds of British schools were shut on

Wednesday as an estimated two million public sector

workers staged a one-day walkout in a row over pension


Unions claimed the strike, which saw thousands of hospital

operations cancelled and caused delays at British

airports, was the biggest industrial action in the UK for

more than thirty years.

Employees responsible for delivering many of Britain's

public services are angry over plans to raise their

retirement age to 67 and force workers to increase their

monthly pension contributions.

The government insists that workers must face up to a

stark new reality. The British economy is barely growing

and is feeling the effects of the eurozone crisis, not to

mention the UK's own debt problems.

Ministers claim that workers in the public sector, which

includes Britain's largest employer, the National Health

Service (NHS), have seen their standard of living rise

dramatically over the last ten years, while those on the

private sector payroll have seen average incomes fall.

Public opinion divided

But some workers say the government has exaggerated just

how generous public sector pensions are, in an attempt to

split public opinion.

"The average pension for people working in the NHS is

8,000 pounds (9,340 euros; $12,554) a year," said Jackie

Hall, a child psychotherapist for the NHS. "It's made out

as if the rest of the country is financing something which

is exorbitant. But it's actually something very modest and

really well earned," said Hall, who joined Wednesday's

march through central London with her colleagues.

More than 25,000 people turned out for the rally on the

banks of the River Thames, just a short walk from London's

famous Houses of Parliament.

Union officials hoped that despite battling a coalition

government determined to cut Britain's enormous public

deficit, the one-day strike would help force officials to

rethink their offer.

"We've been in negotiations with the government since

January," said Karen Jennings, assistant deputy secretary

of Unison, Britain's largest public sector union. "It was

only the day before we announced our ballot that the

government went to parliament and made some concessions,"

she added.

Economic outlook worsens

But in a warning that unions may be too optimistic, UK

Chancellor George Osborne told parliament less than 24

hours earlier, that additional austerity measures were

necessary to bring down Britain's debt levels.

Public sector workers, he said, could expect just a one

percent annual pay increase between now and 2014. Osborne

said he had no option but to bring forward plans to

increase the retirement age.

Workers attending the London rally say morale in many

parts of the UK's public sector is at an all-time low.

"I'm now facing a time when I'm reconsidering my career

because I'd be much better off in the private sector,"

said Judith McAteer, a teacher from the London borough of


"Conditions are getting worse and the only thing you had

to look forward to was a decent pension. But that's being

taken away from us as well," added McAteer who moved to

the British capital from Northern Ireland because of a

lack of employment prospects.

Despite those worries, analysts warn that Britain's public

sector faces even tougher times. The Office for Budget

Responsibility forecasts that another 330,000 jobs will

have to be lost before 2015 in addition to nearly half a

million positions already earmarked to be cut.

Women bear the brunt

Unions say that women will be disproportionately affected

by the reforms as many are employed as nurses, teachers

and social workers.

"Women are looking after people every day of the week.

They're the cohesive side of society," said Karen Jennings

from the union Unison. "I think people, and the female

voter in particular, will make sure that the government

rues the day if they don't concede," she warned.

Unlike many health workers, Britain's 400,000 nurses did

not take part in the strike. Nurses unions, who are due to

ballot their members about industrial action in January,

are equally worried about the government's plans to

increase pension contributions.

Union leaders says it is the equivalent of a three percent

tax increase, at a time when inflation in the UK has

reached more than five percent and Britain's sales tax was

raised to 20 percent.

"What the government is saying to us is 'you can pay more,

work longer and get a lot less at the end of it'," said

Faith Thornhill, who works at University College Hospital

in London.

The nurse, who joined a picket line for striking workers

warned ministers that they may end up with a much bigger

pension bill: "A lot of us can't afford the increase and

may have to leave the scheme," said Thornhill. "If that

happens and the scheme collapses, we'll be more reliant on

our state pension and it will cost the government more."

Minimal Disruption

More than a thousand similar rallies were held all over

the UK. An estimated 20,000 people marched through the

streets of Manchester, another 10,000 protested in


Despite fears that the one-day strike would bring much of

Britain to a standstill, commentators said the disruption

was minimal. Border officials arranged alternative cover

for customs officers at UK ports and airports. Contingency

plans at hospitals and local government offices helped

keep services running.

About a third of council staff in England and Wales were

not at work on Wednesday.

Prime Minister David Cameron played down the impact of the

walk-out described the strike as a "damp squib" while

Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber

said the strike was "a terrific success".

Author: Nik Martin

Editor: Joanna Impey


Two million public sector workers strike in UK against austerity and pension cuts

No matter how hard I tried I couldn't find the Wall Street Journal's account of the massive strike of public sector workers in Britain that took place yesterday. By most accounts some two million workers struck in defense of pensions and against the austerity measures being introduced by the government to pay for the crisis of their system and the sumptuous feast the financial sector has had over the past period. In the US which has the most "unfree" a word the capitalist media likes to throw around here when talking about the rest of the world such news is not the best news. But I eventually found a 21/2 by 1 inch column on page 15.

My local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle has a slightly longer article on page 8, the big news being the killing of a cop in Vallejo who was chasing a robbery suspect. A huge picture with Marines, rifles pointing skyward dominates the front page with a story about what a good family man the policeman was. No one wishes death on any family but the reason for such coverage has everything to do with propaganda about the state, its role and its forces as opposed to the misery such an act brings to a family of human beings. People are shot, kicked out of their homes, lose their jobs, raped in prison and mutilated daily in these United States and if they organize to resist this state sponsored terrorism the cops will be there to drive them back and defend the system that perpetuates this terrorism. Just yesterday we were told of the increase in homeless children across the bay in San Francisco, like the famines of Africa, such a situation is market driven, not an act of nature.

The strike in Britain yesterday showed the power workers have when we take a day off work; somewhat more threatening to the 1% than camping out at city hall. In Scotland, less than two percent of schools remained open while as many as 85% of schools were shut down or severely affected by the strike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland according to reports. Sky News reported that the prime minister's press secretary was among a small number of “volunteers” at Heathrow Airport helping out on border control. There is major public support for the strikers. Even non emergency surgeries were cancelled.

Below is a video response from a talk show host in Britain that has caused a bit of a stir and apparently brought forth an apology. But like here in the US, the response by the class that owns the media and all forms of communication will be to blame relatively higher paid workers with pensions for the crisis and turn the low waged, less fortunate workers who have no pensions to talk of against the public sector.

And like the USA, this is made easier by the failure of the Union hierarchy to expand on such benefits and working conditions to the rest of the population. I have been on many informational picket lines like those during the 2003 grocery workers' strike where the strategy of the Labor hierarchy has been appeals to shoppers not to shop or boycott a store whose branches in the south were being struck. "Don't shop, they're taking way our benefits", workers were instructed to say. "What benefits?" many shoppers asked, "I don't have any benefits." The workers had no answer for this, they were simply being used by the officialdom as troops to pressure shoppers not boycott. Apart from that, members of the same Union but a different local were inside stocking the shelves which encourages the young workers that its OK to work behind a picket line and the obvious question from some of the shoppers that went in, "You're asking me not to cross and your own Union brothers and sisters are crossing to go to work?"

This is a constant danger as if the problems people face are not resolved or a united generalized movement built to drive back the offensive of the bankers and wasters that have caused the crisis, the possibility of divisions opening up within sections of the working class increases. All in all though, it seems from afar that the strike was a major success and important lessons will be learned from the struggle, not least, defending the movement against the attempts of the Labor hierarchy to keep it within the boundaries acceptable to capital and their precious market. Here is the short clip from the UK. I don't know this guy maybe he's their equivalent of Bill O'Reilly.


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