Ireland North: Massive public sector strike against austerity

Socialist MPs in Southern Ireland Parliament send message of support to strikers

Today, tens of thousands of workers – Catholic and Protestant – are united in strike action across Northern Ireland. The public sector strike against budget cuts and redundancies is the largest strike in the North since the 30th November 2011 strike over pensions.

Transport, education, health services, fire and rescue, road services and other sectors are hit by today’s 24-hour strike. NIPSA, the largest union in the North, is joined by several other unions in taking action, including the teachers’ union, INTO, Unite, UNISON and the GMB.

Under the local Assembly’s planned cuts, 20,000 jobs are due to go, along with other deep budget cuts. With Northern Ireland’s public sector making up around 70% of its GDP and with up to one-third of its workforce employed (directly or indirectly) by the state, the impact of austerity cuts is massive and will hit all society.

Feeling the pressure of mass working class opposition to cuts, Sinn Fein, which governs along with the Democratic Unionist Party, said earlier this week it would no longer support the passage of the Welfare Bill through the local Assembly.

This shows that mass industrial action can force governing parties to buckle over their austerity plans. It is an example to workers in southern Ireland and Britain to follow. Socialist Party (CWI Ireland) members in the unions in the North are now calling for all the unions to follow up today’s strike with more militant industrial action, to kill-off the Welfare Bill completely.

Below we publish solidarity greetings from socialist members of Parliament in South Ireland sent to the striking workers in the North, and we post photographs from this morning’s picket lines in the North.

Health workers on Shankill Road

Belfast students demonstrate

Socialist MPs in Southern Ireland Parliament send message of support to strikers

The Socialist Party and Anti-Austerity Alliance’s Members of Parliament in the South send our solidarity to public sector workers in Northern Ireland taking strike action on Friday 13th March and all those who stand with them in protest against Stormont’s vicious cuts agenda, which threatens to destroy 20,000 jobs and slash public services.

We reject the excuses of the DUP and Sinn Fein, who claim they have no choice but to implement brutal austerity. This is the same Pontius Pilate approach used by government politicians in the South to justify attacks which have devastated working class communities. Let us remember, it was the five Assembly Executive parties – not the Tories – who pushed for a cut in corporation tax, which will see at least an extra £300 million transferred from public services to fat cats’ profit margins!

For a long time, we were told that workers in the South wouldn’t fight back. Now, we are witnessing a revolt against water charges and the wider austerity agenda. In this struggle, people know that one day of protest is not enough – we need to build a mass movement. Friday 13th March should be the first date in serious campaign of sustained, co-ordinated and escalating action.

In the South, in Britain and across Europe, people are fed up with austerity. This powerful strike action demonstrates the people in the North have had enough too. We need to build new mass parties that can represent working class people, to fight to make the super-rich elite pay for their crisis. Such a force in Northern Ireland could unite working class people around their common interests, against austerity and sectarian division.

Your Sincerely,

Paul Murphy TD

Ruth Coppinger TD

Joe Higgins TD

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March 2015