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4 July 2011
Southampton council workers strike on same day as teachers, lecturers and civil servants
Like many cities, last Thursday, 30 June, Southampton was covered by picket lines at colleges, universities and civil service offices. 75% of schools were shut or severely affected by the strike.
In addition, selective action at the council continued with refuse workers, street cleaners, toll bridge workers and librarians all out on strike.
By lunchtime the 11am rally of over 500 teachers, lecturers and civil servants had swelled to well over 1,000 as hundreds of council workers marched into the Guildhall Square.
It combined to create an electric mood of anger and growing determination to defend pay, jobs, pensions and services.
Reflecting the importance of the council dispute, with the threat of workers being locked out on Monday 11 July, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis gave a fiery speech attacking the government and saying: "There is an alternative, if the bankers caused this crisis, they should pay" and "if their attack on pensions continues, there should be five million out by the autumn".
Unite officer Ian Woodland, whose union members face dismissal on 11 July if they refuse to sign up to new, worse contracts, said: "Our campaign will continue, come what may".
Earlier in the day Socialist Party members had visited picket lines across the city to give support and solidarity. PCS members at HMRC and the Home Office reported strong support for action and were in a buoyant mood.
UCU members at Tauntons College said the strike had been well supported and the college was closed.
At the rally Socialist Party leaflets were well received with unanimous support for our call for a one-day public sector strike. Our stall had a steady stream of people coming up to sign our petition with a number of teachers and young workers filling in 'join' cards.
The day gave a glimpse of what is coming. In Southampton, with the threat of mass sackings at the council, events are coming to a head.
It is vital that any lockout is met with an escalation of the strike action. This should include a council-wide strike the day of the next full council meeting on Wednesday 13 July.
This should be followed with an all-out strike if the council carry through their sackings. Public support for the strike is strong despite rubbish piled high across the city.
This support should be mobilised in a mass weekend demonstration with an appeal to workers and the trade unions across the region. The campaign would be given a boost if the Southampton Labour group gave full support to the strike and pledge to reverse all Tory cuts if elected to run the council next May.
Southampton Socialist Party continues to give its full and active support to striking council workers. This is the time for bold and resolute action that could see an important victory in the growing battles in council offices across the country.
Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party
Update on 5 July - the action escalates
A mass meeting on 4 July agreed to escalate the action. From 11 July nearly 500 more council workers will be on strike, Unite and Unison members.
This includes 13 Port Health Officers, which has the potential to bring one of the busiest ports in the country to a halt. The City will lose an estimated £1 million for every day the port is idle.
On 13 July there will be a mass demonstration of council workers to the council meeting.
Assemble 1pm in East/Andrews park, for a march to the Civic Centre.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 4 July 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist as Southampton - city-wide public sector strike.
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