Northern Ireland: Magnificent united workers’ action against cuts

“Set a date for next strike!”

Northern Ireland saw massive industrial action by public sector workers on 30 November. The mood of strikers was determined and often angry, particularly after George Osborne’s Westminster speech the day before, where he pledged new huge attacks on public sector workers. The public sector is by far the largest employer in N Ireland. Pickets and strikers said that 30 November was just the start of strike action until their demands are met by the government.

Around 10,000 attended a union rally in Belfast rally and up to 3,000 in Derry city. Other union rallies took place in other towns like Newry, Enniskillen, Omagh, Craigavon, Armagh, Ballymena and other areas.

This magnificent day of industrial action saw Catholic and Protestant workers standing shoulder to shoulder against the real common foe – the ConDem government and the big banks and big bosses that this government represents.

Speakers at the large union rally in central Belfast included Mary Cahillane, INTO (Irish National Teachers’ Organisation) National Executive member. Speakers at the Derry rally included Chris Baugh, the Deputy General Secretary of PCS.

Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) members gave out 10,000 leaflets across the North and sold hundreds of copies of the The Socialist newspaper. will carry more reports from the Socialist Party in N Ireland on the 30 November mass industrial action and the way forward for the public sector workers.

Below, we publish a statement from Mary Cahillane, INTO National Executive member (made in a personal capacity), and Socialist Party member.

Set a date for next strike!

“November 30th has shown that the [N Ireland] Assembly parties and the Tory/Lib Dem Government [Westminster] are opposed by millions of workers in their attempt to make ordinary people pay for the crimes of the bankers and the billionaires.

“The bosses press has attempted to demonise workers for refusing to go along with cuts to pensions, jobs and services. The Belfast Telegraph newspaper has exposed its anti-worker agenda by attempting to paint bus drivers participating in strike action as hurting school children. What a nerve from a paper owned by Sir Tony O’Reilly – a tax exile millionaire! The Irish News has sensationally attacked trade unionists for the temerity of availing of their rights to represent workers during working hours, claiming the taxpayer is paying £4million to unions. Utter rubbish! Not a word about the billions given to the banks or the millions wasted every year in tax loopholes for the rich.

“The cabinet of millionaires in Westminster are threatening to further erode our right to take strike action as if the current anti-trade union laws weren’t enough. After savagely attacking workers in the private sector, political representatives of the rich have also attempted to turn workers in the private sector against public sector workers. But they have failed. Workers across the board are facing attacks on terms and conditions. There needs to be a united movement of all workers, the unemployed, pensioners and young people to the brutal austerity being carried out by all the parties in Stormont.

“The magnificent strike on 30th November also demonstrated the potential support for a political alternative to the main parties – one which unites ordinary people to defend our jobs and livelihoods and which stands for a socialist alternative to bailouts for big business and the billionaires. The trade unions should take concrete steps now to initiate the launch of a new mass party of the working class to challenge the parties in Stormont. The Socialist Party is committed to organising workers and young people from all communities to resist the cuts and strive to build a new mass alternative.

“I appeal on all those who want to see an anti-sectarian working class political voice to join the Socialist Party and challenge this rotten system which only offers further cuts, unemployment and sectarian division.”

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December 2011