Solent on strike: walk-out round-up and the government’s Autumn Statement

Posted on December 1, 2011 by

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Thousands of public sector workers went on strike yesterday in what Unions say was the biggest collective day of action since the Winter of Discontent or even the 1926 General Strike.

Over 2’000 are reported to have marched on Southampton’s Guildhall with hundreds also rallying in rainy Newport, Portsmouth and Winchester as a predicted 15’000 people walked out across Hampshire.

Marching in Southampton

Marching in Southampton

The majority of schools closed across Hampshire and IOW (at least 450), with lively pickets also held outside other public sector workplaces such as Council offices, hospitals and Universities, along with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency HQ in Southampton.

Pickets on the IoW

Pickets on the IoW

The strike came the day after the government’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne delivered his Autumn Statement, which outlined less growth, more borrowing and more choppy waters ahead for the economy.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) also released statistics suggesting public sector lay-offs may reach 750’000 by 2016, 350’000 more than previously suggested, which is likely to further worsen Union-Government relations in future.

Local Labour MPs have quickly rounded on the government, with Alan Whitehead saying:

“Today is a disaster for Mr Osborne, but it’s families and children in Southampton who are paying the price. Having spent much of the last year cutting vital help for the economy, the Government has now belatedly decided to effectively reinstate programme after programme, from capital spending to youth unemployment measures. But there’s a real danger that these measures will be too little, too late. In addition to the terrible growth figures, there are some really worrying figures on the forecast of 100,000 more children forced into poverty over the next year. The Government promised they would not allow child poverty to rise as a result of their austerity measures and we’ll be pressing them very hard to make sure they keep their promise.”

With John Denham adding:

“People in Southampton have been betrayed by the failure of the Tory-led government’s gamble. There are now 733 young people unemployed in my own constituency – that’s over a 30% increase from this time last year. And in all there’s 2,565 claiming Jobseekers Allowance. Prices are rising by 5%, making life harder for families, and too many children are being forced to live in poverty by this Government. And now George Osborne and this Tory-led Government which said it would cut borrowing is now increasing it. Southampton has felt the pain but it’s not working”.

Those interested in environmental issues are also not best pleased, with George Osbourne promising to slash into funding for Green projects and promising to rollback wildlife protection regulations as a “hinderance to business”, with George saying that “We will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses.”

Enviromental campaign group RSPB say they are “still reeling” from the announcement, whilst green campaigners are increadingly questioning the governments aim to be “the greenest government ever” if they’re ditching long-term environmental projects for short-term gains.

Education campaigners were also out and about, with students from Southampton Students for Education joining lecturers picket lines and urging other students not to cross them in protest against Higher Education cuts.  Students are divided over the issue though, with some complaining about cancelled lectures and lost money as customers.

With a return to recession (assuming the current flatlining doesn’t count) seeming more likely next year and more public sector workers likely to join the dole queue in future, protests and strikes like these are becoming a regular fixture of Solent life and we’ll probably see more in the next few years

 

 

 

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Posted in: News, Southampton, UK