Public sector union Unison has hailed its day of action last week (November 30) as a success as workers at Eastleigh council’s Hedge End depot joined millions of other workers throughout the UK striking in protest at government plans to increase their retirement age and pension contributions.
Although Council leader Keith House had promised “We will do everything we can to minimize any disruption to our services” Unison claimed the strike call was 95% solid and the only people working in the Depot were management.
“We didn’t want to inconvenience the public” a Unison organiser told Eastleigh News “but our members felt they had no alternative but to take action to protect their future”
Dave Prentis general secretary of Unison said:
“Our members have told politicians that they would not stand by and see their pensions attacked and undermined and they would not be made to pay for the crisis caused by speculators and bankers”
Eastleigh Council’s lowest paid workers have an additional reason to feel aggrieved as the council has refused to honour a £250 hardship payment announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his first budge.
Although the Chancellor froze public sector pay for two years he announced that the lowest paid – those earning less than £21, 000 p.a would still receive a £250 payment in each year.
But the tight-fisted Lib Dem controlled council at Eastleigh refused to implement the payment claiming that was no National agreement for council’s to do so.
This is in contrast to the action of Lib Dems on Wirral Council who joined forces with Conservatives to force thorough the payments to their low paid workers against Labour opposition.
As well as Bin men and depot workers local NHS Direct staff based in Hedge End also went on strike.
Unison reported that workers who turned up at 11pm on Tuesday returned home at midnight.
Local lecturer and ‘Sure start’ campaigner Kate Reynolds who teaches at Barton Peveril , joined fellow NUT members on a protest march in Southampton.
She said she was marching because the changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme filed her with “anger and fear for the future”
“I joined the teaching profession because I wanted to help young people achieve their potential, to help them realise their dreams. Not only am I now expected to work longer and pay more to get less, but those who will be caring for my health as the years go by will also be older and more likely to become ill themselves; those who are struggling to find employment now will find it harder as those in post will be forced to stay in post for longer.
“As with most of the plans set out by this government, the vision is short-sighted with no sense of responsibility”
Local twitter user Syd Lawrence echoed the sense of betrayal, tweeting:
“’Come work for me and in 40 years you get an awesome pension’. 30 years later ‘actually scrap that’”
However there was not a lot of love among other local social media users for the strikers.
Many Twitter and facebook users thought public sector workers had no right to expect a decent pension as their private sector pension returns had been diminishing recently.
Comments like “They are lucky to have a job” and “If I went on strike I would lose business” were common. One local taxi driver went as far as to call strikers ‘Scumbags’.
A Unison member, a dinner lady from Newtown, 45, who did not wish to be named, reacted angrily to the slur:
“It seems like some private workers want to get us into a race with them down to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions”.
“A 3% increase in our pension contributions combined with a pay freeze and 5% inflation means an 8% cut in spending power for 15% of the local work force”
“This will have repercussions in the wider economy including on those in the private sector.”
“I can’t see myself being able to afford a taxi in the future”