Brendan Barber 'regrets strike disruption'


TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said of the strike action today: "I genuinely regret the disruption and inconvenience that these kinds of actions cause, but I think people do realise that sometimes it is right to take a stand. Public sector workers are saying to the Government 'you have got to negotiate in a fair way'.

"All union represented health service workers have been clear in ensuring that essential services are maintained so that public safety and any threat of life are attended to in a proper way. That guarantee is there.

"I think the public realise that the reason this strike is going ahead is because of the intransigence from the Government and their determination to simply force changes through.

"Yesterday we saw a massive attack on the public sector. We are now told that after two years of pay freezes public sector workers pay is going to be held down for a further two years."

Speaking at the St Pancras Hospital picket  in London after Mr Barber had addressed union members, a striking hospital admin worker, who gave his name as Andy, said: "My partner and I both work for the NHS, we are taking action, which we don't do lightly, but we feel our pensions are under attack.

"We have already had a pay freeze and there are threats of job losses. It is unfair that we are asked to pay more and receive less as well as being expected to work for longer.

"[The pension offer] is a tax on working class people to pay for a crisis caused by the failure of the banks. Why are the bankers not being taxed and still receiving their bonuses?

"We don't want a race to the bottom, we would like to see everyone in the private sector as well joining the union and taking action because we are fighting for everyone.

After a passing cyclist shouted 'get back to work', he said: "There will always be people who think we are just lazy and want a day off but I get frustrated when I see headlines in the press which seem to attack unions and workers for wanting to take action to defend their pay and conditions.

"We are demonised when we are decent human beings working hard to make a living and to provide public services. I ask what people who tell us to 'get back to work' what they would do if they were in my position.

"If the union voted for more strikes in future, I would walk out again.

A coalition of unions, including the PCS, the FDA - which represents the senior civil servants - and claimants of disability allowance manned the picket line outside HMRC's offices in Euston Tower.

Anna, a PCS member said: "We have been told by George Osborne that we are in for years more pain. We know the money is there but it is going to the rich.

"This is what it really means for us to all be in it together."

Janet, a member of UCH staff, said: "People have said they can't afford to strike, I am here because I can't afford not to. We are part of a revolt which is going on all over the world.

Claire, a member of the Disability Rights Campaign, said: "Those of us who claim are workers. It is hard coping with disability in an inaccessible environment.

"It is hard work having to plan even the simplest journey in great detail.

"And now we have private companies throwing people off disability benefits; people with terminal cancer are being turned into job seekers while they start their Chemotherapy. We will fight the Welfare Reform Bill."

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