The largest public sector strike in the UK in several years was attended by Swansea University students, who showed their support for public sector workers protesting against cuts. Despite government promises that low-paid workers would be protected, more than 800,000 part-time workers on annual salaries of less than £15,000 faced a 3% tax rise on their pensions.
Trade unions representing 2.6 million workers went on strike against changes to pension schemes that they claimed were too drastic to be acceptable. One change that has been condemned as a “naked money grab” would increase pension contributions to £2.8bn by 2015 which amounts to a pay cut for employees.
Several speakers addressed the crowd, including a primary school teacher who explained why it would be impossible for her to continue working for as long as the government said it would expect her to.
“My job is a physically demanding one. I’m fine now, but at 68 I will not be able to cope with the level of physical endurance needed to do my job. I don’t just sit at a desk all day, and I cannot imagine a 68 year old doing what I do, every day, for even a term, let alone one year.”
Swansea University SU President Luke James, who attended the march himself, commented on the strike and why it was important for students to attend.
“Young people need to realise that the changes to pensions now could affect them more than anyone else. The UK governments proposals will mean people in public sector jobs in the future will be forced to work until 68 or older, all the time paying more of your wages than ever before and all for a smaller pension at the end.
“We’ll all be paying off huge student debts. Our generation is paying through the teeth for the excesses of the London elite, not forgetting that many of our part-time students are already working in the public sector and we should be joining them in fighting for fair pensions.
“With all of that in mind it was fantastic that a good number of students marched with trade unions today to stand up for fairness.”
Laurence Atkinson, a Swansea University student who marched to oppose the cuts, gave his thoughts.
“’Today’s turnout demonstrated the strength of opposition behind our ConDem government’s savage and unfair cuts. It was heartening to see so many people take to the streets in protest.’
Student Tom Hoyles also attended the march and spoke to The Siren about his thoughts on the cause and how people have reacted to the pension cuts.
“It was great to see everyone out on the streets united together for the same cause. It seems that right now the government is out of touch with the public, so it’s fantastic to be a part of something that will hopefully make others listen. People we passed on the march were clapping to show their support, and I think it shows from the sheer numbers that were present at marches and rallies all over the UK that this really is a pension worth fighting for.”
The BBC was forced to apologise on Thursday December 1st on behalf of presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who suggested on air on The One Show that strikers should be “executed in front of their families.” “I would have them taken outside and executed in front of their families,” he said. His comments have so-far received over 5000 complaints.
Government officials and ministers will meet with union negotiators for a series of meetings before Christmas to discuss pensions for workers in local government, health, education and the civil service.