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Anorak | The J30 Strike Kept The Media Working Hard: Everything Else Just Worked The Same

The J30 Strike Kept The Media Working Hard: Everything Else Just Worked The Same

by | 1st, July 2011

HOW did the J30 public sector workers’ strike over pensions go? The media reports on what was either a grand day out or a blow for justice, depending on your prejudices:

The Times (front page): “First strike fails to spa”

One of the largest strikes in a generation by hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil servants had “minimal impact” on public services, despite the closure of more than 7,000 schools, No 10 said yesterday.

Up to 300,000 teachers and at least 100,000 civil servants walked out in protest over “unfair and unjust” changes to their pensions. But with little disruption to airports, Jobcentres, or courts the action was dismissed as a damp squib by a Downing Street source…

The Guardian (front page): “A text book lesson in protest and Miss and Sir chalk up a respectable result”

Anyone want to talk to the press…? Yes, You sir:

Doctoral student Harry Pitts, 24, one of the last self-proclaimed Marxists in the Labour party, had come from Falmouth where his father works in the docks and his mother teaches. The government’s attack “is probably a way of breaking down people’s sense of vocation within the current capitalist mode of production, preparing us to be more pliant and amenable to bursts of temporary work or call centre jobs”, he said.

Stick that into a chant and he’s got a winner.

Michael White sees order in the playground:

As demonstrations go it was very good about its litter. When the good-natured crowd shuffled gently down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square, marchers repeatedly stopped to drop their sandwich cartons and coffee cups into Westminster city council’s big black bin outside that citadel of privilege, the Savoy Hotel.

The Daily Mail only sees disorder:

Dozens of protesters arrested just yards from Downing Street after violence breaks out on strike march

As the marchers put the blood-asoaked tissues into bins, the paper has the strike in numbers:

20,000 took part in the main demonstration in Central London with thousands of others in cities across the UK.
Public and Commercial Services union claims 85 per cent of its members went on strike.
Government says nearly 100,000 out of 500,000 civil servants took part in the walk out.
11,000 schools either closed or partly closed as teachers downed tools affecting 1m pupils.
Met police arrest 30 people – 24 throughout today’s London march and six last night.
95 per cent of Met police 999 staff strike.

The BBC has other numbers:

Up to 750,000 teachers, civil servants and other workers went on strike in England. Disruption hit airports, job centres, driving test centres and courts across the country.

The Independent looks at the parents and the students:

Laila Chittoo, parent

“I am not saying what they are doing is wrong but where is the money going to come from? There is not enough of it in the pot. It is certainly disruptive for parents and, more importantly, for the children who need to continue their studies. My daughter is going to one of the other parent’s houses because I have appointments that I have to keep.

“Luckily it is a small school and all the parents help each other out. The teachers have a valid point to show how unhappy they are and I hope they prove something but I am not sure if striking is the right way. The teachers are really good here and I support them.”

Her daughter, pupil, Natasha

“I know the teachers are going on strike but they have not really spoken to us about it. I like going to school so I am a bit disappointed to not be going in. If the weather is nice, we will go to Hampstead Heath so that will be nice.”

Amid the sunbathers and telly watchers, the Mirror sees something that looks like class war:

Barry Lovejoy, of the University and College Union, praised the “brilliant” support for the protests. He told the rally: “It’s the biggest strike in a generation. Nearly three-quarters of a million workers taking strike action against a great pension robbery.”

Mr Lovejoy added that “Eton toff politicians” and “millionaires in the Cabinet” were trying to demonise public sector workers.

Whereas Mr Lovejoy is just stating the facts. Anyhow, what was the Bristol protest like?

More than 1,000 protesters surged on to the streets of Bristol. Workers assembled at the city’s College Green at 11am and shouted slogans while banging drums.

Can an orderly assembly surge?

Steve Myall tells Mirror readers that Labour Leaders Ed Miliband is one of them:

Labour leader Ed Miliband is caught joking with Cameron and Clegg on the day thousands come out on strike

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband was spotted laughing and joking with the Prime Minister and his deputy as thousands joined the strike over public sector pension cuts. The image of Mr Miliband with David Cameron and Nick Clegg, above, will infuriate workers already angered by his lack of support for the walk-out.

The snap was taken at a reception at Buckingham Palace yesterday, shortly after coming under fire for telling the strikers that industrial action was “wrong”.

The Sun has its own view, preferring to look not at how many went on strike but how many didn’t:

Have few had a nice day? Now get back to work! Thousands defy own unions’ futile strike

Union bosses had predicted that 750,000 public sector workers would walk out in protest at changes to their pensions and retirement age. But according to the Government, just 105,890 out of a total 500,000 civil servants failed to turn up for work. Just 11,114 of England’s 21,500 State schools were hit, although only around 7,000 of them closed. Nearly 6,000 had no problems at all, with another 5,000 being only partially affected.

The Sun then delivers a section called “Mums pay for walkout”:

DESPITE the low turnout yesterday, enough teachers went on strike to cause massive inconvenience to hard-pressed parents. NIKKI WATKINS meets three mothers who had to bear the brunt when their child’s school was closed.

Louise Griffiths, 27

THE strike meant the single mum-of-one and volunteer worker from Tamworth, Staffs, had to pay for extra child care for son Connor.
She says: “I don’t think striking will achieve anything. It is simply taking children out of education for the day. I had to use a child-minder for the morning so it meant I was paying to do voluntary work.

“I had to pay an extra £15 and that is a lot when you are a student.”

Oh, the irony.

Brendan O’Neill looks at the name calling, hears the drums and wonders what the hell is going on:

This is, declares Socialist Worker, a war between “super-rich public schoolboys” (BOOOO!) and “workers who will be left to grow old in poverty” (AAAAH!)…

The pantomime nature of the strike, the sense that the unions are simply going through the motions for the benefit of the cameras and some column inches, is clear from the fact that union leaders have already conceded to some of the government’s demands. According to a leaked TUC negotiating paper, they have “in principle” accepted the Government’s insistence that public-sector workers should lose their “generous final-salary pensions”. That’s a central plank of the Government’s allegedly evil pensions reforms, and it has already been sucked up and swallowed down by the union men in suits who today will make fist-shaking speeches to their members about the need to stand up to those wicked “super-rich public schoolboys” in Whitehall. What a bunch of moral charlatans. Who would trust institutions that sell out their members behind closed doors and then swear their undying love and support for their members whenever there’s a clicking camera around?

Mick Hume looks harder at the state of the Unions:

Take the standard historical measure of these things – the number of working days lost due to industrial action in any given year. In 2009, around 455,000 days were lost in total. That compares to 29million days lost in 1979, the peak of the ‘winter of discontent’ when public sector workers went on strike against the Labour government’s policies of imposing wage restraint. Remarkably, as one recent study points out, ‘strike days lost [were] about 50 times higher in 1979 than now and [there have been] fewer strike days in the past 20 years put together than in 1979, despite 4.5million more people in the workforce today’. So it might not take much to claim the ‘biggest strikes in a decade’ etc. But in real terms it might not mean anything at all.

And the thing is that when the strike was on, it made no difference to Anorak. Nothing changed. This was an event that existed largely in the media. Did the schoolchildren who can’t read by the time they leave primary school fail because they missed a “lesson” outdoors, playtime and a revolting lunch? No. Did you wait in line at the airport for ages – just like usual? Yes. Did the council workers demand that taxpayers give them more money? Yes. Did you notice any reduction in the level of public sector service with so many on strike..? Well, did you…?



Posted: 1st, July 2011 | In: Key Posts, Politicians Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink