There's been a lot of talk lately about how unfair the public sector strikes are on service users. This assumes that service users don't support the strikes, and forgets to mention that workers are striking not just for their pensions, but for the future of public services too.
There have been some excellent pieces about why public sector workers with vulnerable client groups need to take industrial action urgently. The austerity measures being put in place - cuts to health and social services, privatisation of the NHS, reduction in housing benefit, and the horrifically dehumanising welfare reform bill in particular - are dramatically affecting the dignity and quality of life of many people. This week, libcom has published a really moving statement from a social worker appealing for solidarity from her colleagues, as well as an excellent explanation of why nurses should take industrial action.
Both of those articles are excellent so I'm not going to restate the points they make, but today I was massively cheered to see demonstrations in solidarity with the N30 strikes from service users in Oxford. Protests have been held outside hospitals, youth centres, libraries and schools by 50 local residents who use the services, organised with the help of Oxford Save Our Services.
Jo Mowatt, a disabled protester, explained why she was in support of the strikes:
‘I am in support of NHS and social care workers striking because it is clear that cuts to pay and conditions are already affecting the service they are trying to deliver. Further cuts that are planned by the council could lead to a breakdown in some public services in Oxfordshire.’
And Kathy Wedell, another Oxford resident, said:
We use fifteen different public services to cope with our son’s disability, so we know just how vital those services are. The government should not be cutting the pensions of ordinary public service workers to pay for the budget deficit. I don’t know of any teaching assistants, nurses, teachers, or any of our other service providers who are are paying themselves big bonuses or stashing money in tax havens. Let’s value the public services we all rely on and stand up for justice
I am so, so pleased to hear this news from Oxford!
Edit - Kathy Wedell had been misquoted, this has now been ammended