We won over lots of members of the public and got several people not to cross the picket and join the union.
I got to spend time meeting stewards from all over the council too – environmental services and housing benefit to name a couple. Pest control arrived with a sign with two rats named Dave and Nick hanging from it!
I then rocketed up to Islington for the SWAN London N30 meet up, joining other SWAN London members including a good crop of new student activists from my old university! We met with service users and social care staff from the Elfrida Society (a organisation which provides services for people with learning difficulties) and anti-cuts activists from Islington Hands of our Public Services, before the march.
It was chance for some great conversation marching all the way from Islington Town Hall to Lincolns Inn Fields and then onto Trafalgar Square, formulating ideas and catching up with SWAN activists old and new.
It was a great show of strength and opportunity to build for ongoing industrial action to defeat the government and the austerity being foisted onto ordinary people by the rich.
The devastating pronouncements in the Autumn Statement delivered by George Osborne the day before the strike, left us in no doubt as to the importance of sending a powerful statement from the public sector. Much has been said and written about pensions, cuts, bonuses, bankers, economic statistics, predictions and consequences but for those of us who still believe in the value of our labour and the right to withdraw it, this strike was aimed at sending an unambiguous message – Enough!!
Blue skies and crisp November sun shone supportively as I made my way for picket duty at the university where I work. How many UCU and Unison members would step up I wondered. Camaraderie and good spirits interspersed with some lively discussion has always marked for me the atmosphere on the picket line. As I arrived a number of students, who it would seem had been actively encouraged to come to lectures, were being informed about the
strike and asked for support. Some gave it and some did not. It was revealing and indeed perplexing, to have social science students (even if it was just a few) crossing our picket line with the stakes for social consciousness and collective action so high, as Marx said “It is not the consciousness of men that determine their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness”. Encouragement however came a little later from IHOOPS (Islington Hands Off Our Public Services), in the form of hot tea, coffee and flap-jacks. Later again a lone journalist from the NUJ arrived with a box of homemade fudge to share and a request for an interview. A little faith was restored.
At 10.30 I went to Islington Town Hall to join the rally there with my SWAN colleagues to support the Elfrida Society who provide essential services to people with learning difficulties. Like many other charities and community
organizations they are experiencing massive cuts, lending a predictable hollowness to the earlier trumpeting of the CON DEM’s Big Society. Following speeches from Jeremy Corbyn and others we set off for the rally. Positioned
as we were at the end of the march, it was a few hours before we arrived at Embankment. We missed the speeches but our journey was enlivened by good conversation, street theatre and the good spirits of fellow marchers. It was also an opportunity to discuss and plan further SWAN activities.
Later that evening as we made our way home from central London my colleague and I were acutely aware of the number of homeless people around, and the very obvious extent of their need. How, I wondered would they survive what is to come.