Tuesday, 6 December 2011

My View and the Belfast Public Sector Strike Rally.

This post is just my own opinion, the people featured in my photos in this post may not share that opinion but are included to try and illustrate the public sector strike rally and the feeling on the street that day.

So here goes: If we ever want a fair society that is worthy of our species' potential, then it's about time that our so called 'democracy' started listening to those trying to keep it functioning at its fundamental level. For far too long there seems to have been a disconnect between many of those with the biggest decision making powers (politically and financially) and anyone who isn't profiting from playing the system (the regular honest citizen left to pick up the pieces).

If You're Not Outraged You're Not Paying Attention

I can't be 100% sure but I'd say this guy might agree a little. Let's face it, his sign has a profound point to make, for really, in how we all got here, I don't understand how anyone (who didn't get into debt, worked hard and is now getting a slap in the face) couldn't be outraged. So many people really do turn a blind eye to the bigger picture let alone on a smaller scale and for a democracy to work well, I can't imagine that being a good thing.

So anyway, as I work in the private sector, I was at work on the 30th November 2011 - the day of the public sector strikes - but I can happily say that didn't stop me attending the public sector trade union strike rally outside Belfast City Hall during my lunch break. The main issue on the day - the issue that forced the strike in the first place (besides the government not willing to negotiate properly with union leaders which didn't help) - was public sector pension cuts. However, in the big picture, the overwhelming problem, at least seen through my eyes, is that the placement of the Con-Lib cuts have totally missed the root cause of the financial mess we've been led into. The cause of financial mismanagement, speculation and outright gambling was not entirely just down to the Tory's blinkered stance over the years, Labour were just as bad in this regard - the problem is systemic. What is unforgivable (now that we know) right now is the seemingly opportunistic methodology in addressing the debts currently being played out by this Conservative led coalition... methodology that smells of the very same conservative ideology that landed us all in this mess in the first place.

I mean just look at what we've had in the last month or so?

- Winding up the Trade Unions to provoke a reaction in order to try and make up reasons to legally curb their influence in the future.
- More plans to just cut, rather than 'reform' (a term used very loosely in this government), the public sector.
- Even further passing of the buck (aka debt) from private to public hands. For instance: Instead of chasing the tax evaders, plans are to cut 12,000 HM Revenues and Customs staff (how stupid is that?). It's now also expected that there will be 500,000 public sector cuts over the course of the next 5 years, up 100,000 from the last guestimate. That is half a million jobs yet we've an ever rising population to provide services to. Yet, the staff still working will have their benefits and incentives cut too. I'd love them to ask CEOs the following question: "if the public sector was a private company, what would you expect such changes to do to morale, motivation and productivity?". It doesn't take a genius to work out what the answer would be. That would be bad even if the public sectors' main role was providing luxuries - maybe making toys or selling coffee for example - but unfortunately, the service involved here is the smooth functioning of the country and the well being of it's people. But who needs that? Oh wait.

If the idea is to privatise as much as possible and divert the responsibility of necessary services (that no profit driven company would touch with a barge pole) to the voluntary sector under the political umbrella branding of 'The Big Society', then I worry what the UK will grow to represent and what unspoken divides will grow from the resulting widening of financial inequality such changes would leave in it's wake.

Thankfully, not everyone is willing to let the buck be passed so easily. Here are some of the scenes from the rally last week:

This is actually how the day began for me; with a dawn walk into town to head to work.

Sun Rise over the River Lagan

After an early start to work up the extra to take a long lunch, I made use of it and headed out into town to join Norngirl at the rally and the crowds began to gather.

Crowd gathers at Belfast City Hall

Union members from trade unions such as NIPSA, were out in force.

NIPSA Union members at Belfast Strike Rally

But like myself, it wasn't just members of the unions that were attending the rally. So were friends, families and anyone with common sense and the flexibility to do so. I think this child's sign sums up the whole point of the rally and quite succinctly encompasses the bigger issues at play. His sign reading 'STOP STEALING OUR FUTURE'.

Stop Stealing Our Future

The crowds made their way to gather outside Belfast City Hall where the rally took place and some speeches were given.

Trade Union members at Belfast rally

Belfast Rally Strike action

Public Sector Strike Rally at Belfast City Hall

And more common sense was sung in a few lines by Tommy Sands compared to the press releases of the current con-lib coalition so far, when he sang the line “There's a way, there's a better way — tax a billionaire”.


  1. Same problems here in the States and all throughout the world. Those who profit from these unfair practices are not willing to give the up, and their money, influence and power are pulling all the strings.

  2. I enjoyed this post, Simon. And I thought you called it just about right over on Ian Parsley's blog (through which I found your own blog).

    I was on strike on the 30 Nov and at the demo in Belfast with my family. I though that one of the most damaging and despicable aspects of the government's propaganda in the run up to the dispute was it's attempts to set public and private sector workers against each other. Even from the perspective of the most ardent capitalists you'd think there'd be an appreciation of the importance of both public and private sectors to a successful, competitive economy. I fear that our ideologically driven government is loving the neo-liberal poison that's killing us all.



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