Damp Squib? UNISON doesn’t think so

Posted: December 7, 2011 by blackdaffodil in Children and Young People, Cutswatch, Demonstrate, Rally & Occupy!, Lambeth living, Libraries, Uncategorized

Here is UNISON’s report on the day in Lambeth, enjoy and be inspired!

  • Lambeth College – SHUT DOWN!
  • 94% of Lambeth schools – SHUT DOWN!
  • 2-7 Town Hall Parade – SHUT DOWN!
  • Larger picket lines, at more locations!
  • More people on strike!

30 November saw the the biggest single piece of industrial action in Britain for a generation. Millions of workers from 25 different trade unions took part, organising lively picket lines, marches, and rallies across the UK. Many in the branch felt in the strike action in Lambeth Council, Lambeth Living and Lambeth College was the best supported and most effective action in more than 20 years. Lambeth College was closed to students, as were the very great majority of schools in the borough. None of the libraries opened and for the first time 2/7 Town Hall Parade was closed and a handful of sorry strike-breakers were directed elsewhere.

Despite Prime Minister David Cameron characterising the strike as “a damp squib”, the government’s own figures admit that the strike shut or partially closed over 16,000 schools (nearly 75% of all state schools in the country) and led to the cancellation of 7,000 routine (non-emergency) NHS procedures. In Scotland, only 30 schools out of thousands opened and 80% of Welsh schools were shut.

The branch thanks everyone who participated in the strike action and we can feel proud that we did what was right to confront an utterly unjustified attack upon our standard of living now and in retirement. Our action and our sacrifice defended all local government workers. What next? It is more then likely that this Cabinet of millionaires will continue to pursue its attack on our pension scheme so we need to start thinking now about how to prepare for further, longer strike action early in the New Year. It won’t be easy but it may well be necessary and we all need to be prepared to defend our pensions!

The Hambrook House Picket
“The Hambrook picket started early, at 6am. Unfortunately the first strike breaker came in as the doors opened at 6.30am with their head down. However, overall, it was a great day! Two thirds of staff didn’t come in, and some staff turned away as they saw the picket line, which was supported by 20 people at one point. This was a huge improvement on previous strikes and is testimony to both the strong feeling of staff about the attacks on pensions and the hard work that has been put in to building up a big stewards network and hugely increased union density in the past three or four years. We then went to the Windrush rally and then to the central London demonstration. It was a brilliant day, and hopefully will show the government that we won’t let them walk all over us. This is a fight that millions of workers have taken part in and is about dignity, respect and a fair society.”
Dan Jeffery

Town Hall Picket
“It is clear we had support from the security staff who we felt were very sympathetic. Not sure what time or how the CE entered the building must of been before 6am because he came out at 9:30am from the front town hall door! We spoke to some members of the public who came for information, then they started to join in with the pickets! It was the senior managers who broken the line”
Sheila Simpson

“The Town Hall picket line began before 7am thanks to Sheila Simpson, Ian Fall from the GMB and my son Daniel, who was with me when I challenged the Chief Executive and Human Resources Director and urged them not to cross the picket line. The picket line grew gradually to very impressive size, with a large number of GMB members joining us. The numbers going into work were well down on previous disputes and the picket provided a very visible presence for our strike in the heart of Brixton”
Jon Rogers

“The picket line at international House started bright and early at 6.45 AM, we had a UNISON stall set up outside Union material for the strike and the public.

The amount of pickets was the highest since the 1980s, at its peak 18 people were supporting the pickets, a massive leap since the last strike when there were about 3 of us! Strike-breakers going into work were completely taken aback at the size of picket line and I think seeing strong support for the action from so many colleagues had a major impact. Several people changed their minds about going into work, and one woman was going to go in stayed out and came with us to the central London demonstration. Our picket line was supported by joint Trade Unions and one of our retired members, Corrine, came to show her solidarity and was warmly received by her former colleagues, a great morale booster.

We estimate that the building was running at just under a 3rd of staff capacity so again I think we had a significant impact”
Andy Tullis

“For the first time in a strike 2-7 Town Hall Parade, which deals with homelessness, was closed to the public and staff. An emergency duty line was still operating for serious cases. Our picket had members who had never been on a picket before but they felt passionately enough about the issue to come to the picket to help out. We managed to turn away the refuse collectors who refused to cross our picket line and the one opposite at Hambrook. A few staff did come to work but went to work from OMH where they were met by the picketers there. We then decided to split up and support other pickets so we sent people to OMH and Blue Star House. We are very proud of the members and non-members alike who work in this building and who made the decision to support the strike. We hope that they will join us in building for any future action”
Gary and Gurmeet

“The picket line at OMH had a happy and good natured attitude and was enjoyable for us all. The picket was supported by 9 Unison, 2 GMB members (and one member’s daughter). We estimate that somewhere between 66%-75% stayed away. We managed to persuade 2 people to return home and we did receive some pledges to support future action. One great point is that we did manage to be outside OMH to catch and shock ALL of the staff who thought they could avoid us by coming in early.

Special Thanks to Frances Heath, Caroline Clarke, Paul Johnson and the other gentleman who’s name I can’t remember (Sorry) who were all on the picket-line from 07.00am and to Elizabeth Anthony who came in on her birthday.

These colleagues have demonstrated true dedication and a great example to all members! I’m proud of you guys!”
Chester Danvers

There were 3 of us there from around 7am with numbers growing to up to around 8 during the morning, spread across the 3 entrances to Phoenix House; the majority of us were first time picketers. We leafleted the passers by, with our youngest volunteer for this aged 5, and we were buoyed by the many encouraging words we received from them, as well as the hoots from passing lorries. We had some disappointments, but generally many people didn’t come in and we did have some successes (at least one that I know of). We are also grateful to the Phoenix House reception staff who brought us out mid-morning tea and biscuits!

“Blue Star house had pickets at the front and back gates. We did our best to talk to people to dissuade them from crossing our picket lines and although I was sorely disappointed with the number of staff who chose to cross the picket line at Blue Star House, I was proud of our Lambeth ‘family’ who were true to the age old principle of solidarity.”
Hassina Malik

“Every library in the borough was closed on November 30, with only two workers crossing the picket lines, which were held at every library. After a year of fighting for our jobs as library workers, it was great to be part of a fightback which brought together millions of workers across the public sector. We are, yet again, incredibly proud of the strength and unity of our members in Libraries. We didn’t just do our bit in yesterday’s pension strike; we sent a message of how ready we are for any fights ahead”
-Libraries Shop Stewards

“I joined the Brixton library picket to support my mum who is a library assistant there. I am also a regular user of Lambeth libraries. They provide a fantastic service that contributes to the whole community – the staff work incredibly hard without the motivation of stellar bonuses for their efforts. The very least they deserve is a fair pension. The picket was vibrant and vocal and I was immensely proud of everyone who took part. This is the real Big Society, and we will not allow Cameron’s distorted vision of his Big Society to encroach on our lives and communities”
Izzy Koksal


“I would like to thank everyone who helped build for this action for their support, not only on the day, but in the build up to the largest day of STRIKE action, for speaking out and talking to non members and persuading them of the importance of this day, to the point where they too saw the justification in our cause to send a message to this government!

I particularly want to thank, Paul, Leigh-Anna, Chris and Helen for all assisting me on the picket line (pictured), which only saw 6 members of staff cross it!”
Nicole White


“Hopton House UNISON members supported the biggest strike in decades with the best supported picket line we have had here in over a decade or more. UNISON members took a stand and held the line along with colleagues from Unite and the GMB. Around 30 or so workers unfortunately decided to turn their backs on their colleagues and service users and went into work, some choosing to use the back door only to find that was picketed as well. At one point we had around 16 strikers supporting the twin Streatham pickets at Hopton House and 380 Streatham High Road a Mental Health services building. Disabled supporters from Lambeth and South London Disabled People Against Cuts came along to offer their support and to show that it is not striking public service workers who are abandoning them and cutting their services. Their message, “We will not be divided”.

Whilst it was disappointing that a very few Social Workers who provide services to Disabled people went into work rather than strike – these though were the unhappy few. All in all Streatham was united, strong and fighting back”
Roger Lewis

The picket at Ivor House managed to persuade four inspectors not to cross! The first inspector was reluctant to cross but said this was a “once in four years” opportunity for her to develop her career. She said she would have stopped if we had four on the picket line but one-by-one I was joined by Rosa, Chris B, Reg and Rekha. Then she said she would go to McDonalds and think about it. Five minutes later she came back with three other inspectors and after some lengthy discussions we convinced them not to cross our picket line. Result! In contrast, staff in that building gathered together opposite IVOR and almost ran into the side entrance meantfor clients – they refused to engage with the picketers
Reg Morrison/Jeremy Dewer


“It was my first picket and being a relatively new shop steward, the build up to the 30th, the 30th – all of it was a massive learning curve. I witnessed the best of our branch committee, our members and also from our SLAM comrades too and realised our branch is at its best when it is in action. We have been part of an integrated service in mental health for some time but the pickets on the 30th were some of the best examples of integration that I have seen!

At 308 Brixton Road, placards and pickets were at both entrances declaring an official UNISON picket. The first person to refuse to cross the picket line was our cleaner she walked away in minutes. Then the postman came, he saw and then he left! Then we saw a workman turn away, reversing skillfully back. Service users who arrived were gently accompanied to the entrance to the office and observed to ensure that they went in.

One of the most moving and inspirational events for us at 308 Brixton Road, was the fact that the entire SHARP Team (SLAM), came out to declare their support for the strike. They closed the building and proceeded to Windrush Square and then to the main rally. They are the real stars in this; the OT Team Manager, psychologist, rehab workers et al – an entire team came out and shut the building in solidarity. I want to thank Stuart and Max from SLAM and to my own Lambeth Unison Branch for their support and encouragement and enabling me to realise that WE are the 99%. All of us- including people like Molly, a young woman of 25 . She told us her story. She is not a public sector worker, but her mother is and she has a disabled brother. Now her mother has lost her job. Molly came to show her solidarity with the strike and provide pickets with Solidari-tea! Thank you Molly and all who came out in solidarity”
Sahida Uddin


In the North Lambeth area, 9 people joined the picket line Just over 50% of staff were on strike there were about 20 staff that turned up for work and despite out best attempts still crossed the picket line. The post man did not cross and took that day’s post away. Also another contractor made no attempt to cross. We received support for a tenants rep who joined us for a while on the picket line and some resounding good luck wishes from members of the public. The office was only able to provide a limited counter service
Denise Nunn-St John

Other Housing area offices also had successful pickets:

Brixton Office, 50% on strike. 5 pickets
Streatham Office, 21/25 on strike, 84%. 7 pickets
Norwood Office, 15/31 on strike, 50%. 1 pickets
Union Grove, 23/35, 65%. 1 picket

“There were pickets at all the Lambeth College sites (Clapham, Brixton and Vauxhall) with both UNISON and UCU members in attendance. Most staff did not go in and lots of strikers from the College turned up at Windrush Square to hear the speeches. At Vauxhall we even recruited one new UNISON member on the day and she came on the march with us!”
Chloe Watkins

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