On June 30, up to 750,000 public sector workers went on strike. This included teachers, lecturers, border agency workers, prison officers, benefits administrators, customs officers and tax collectors. This marked the first coordinated strike action against the government’s cuts agenda.
In Bootle, you could hardly move for picket lines. From the two buildings of PCS Bootle Taxes Branch to the DWP, Health and Safety Executive, and the UCU members at Hugh Baird College. There was strong support all around, with members of the public offering words of solidarity and most of the cars going past honking to indicate which side they were on.
Members of Bootle Taxes branch gave out a leaflet to the public explaining why we were out on strike and why the issues we were striking over didn’t just affect us but the public too. This was extremely well received, and other branches locally also took this leaflet to hand out on their picket lines.
Overall, the picket lines were well observed. Media reports have been downplaying the strike, describing it as “1 in 5” public sector workers, but in our experience it was less than 10% of staff who didn’t observe the strike, many of them senior managers, and other branches have reported a similar experience. By contrast, the picket lines were well attended by both members and reps, and many lines in Bootle and Liverpool were visited by members of the public and of other organisations wishing to demonstrate their support and solidarity.
To those who did go in, we handed a letter and asked them to sign it. Addressed to David Cameron, this identified the sender as a strike breaker and asked to opt out of any victories won by the PCS union. This was to drive home the point: we can only defeat the current attacks by sticking together, and those who cross picket lines aren’t merely “not taking part” – they are actively taking the side of those who are attacking our jobs, pay and pensions alongside public services and welfare more generally.
In the middle of the day, members of the striking unions joined other unions and community organisations supporting our cause to march through Liverpool City Centre, rallying at the Black-E on Great George Street. Roughly 4,000 people were in attendance, loudly displaying their defiance of the government and its agenda.
For members at the Triad picket line, the day continued until 5.30pm, in anticipation of members of the evening shift trying to cross the picket line. However, despite many of them being brand new starters and on temporary contracts, less than ten went in. A particular high point came when one member who had started work only on the Monday was turned away upon hearing that he had no obligation to break the strike. He headed home to cheers and thanks from those on the line.
This strike will not be the end of the fight, and if members of Unison and Unite join in, the next coordinated action will be even bigger. But it does demonstrate that despite the government’s rhetoric and propaganda there is a will to fight – not only amongst trade union members, but also the wider public.
PCS Bootle Taxes thanks and congratulates all members who took part in the action, especially those who joined us on the picket line.
You can see photos from the day here
You can read the leaflet we were handing out to the public here (.pdf)
You can read the letter we were handing to strike breakers here (.doc)