Trade unions to hold large rally in Wigan town centre to mark strikes with 'festival of resistance'
Trade union members will make their voices heard during a day of action in Wigan – and workers are being urged to get involved.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for rallies and protest meetings to be held across the country on Wednesday to oppose the Government’s new strike laws.
Wigan Trades Council is organising a rally in Wigan town centre, starting at 12.15pm opposite Moon Under The Water, to support the TUC protest, back workers on strike and to defend public services.
Secretary Dave Lowe said: "Half a million workers will be striking together on that day in the fight for better pay, to defend working conditions, the services they provide and in opposition to Tories’ anti-trade union laws. In response, Wigan Trade Council are organising a rally in the town centre which we hope will convey a powerful and angry statement to the Government and the bosses.
“It’s very positive that the PCS, RMT, NEU, ASLEF, UCU and some Scottish unions are all striking on the same day, but there is a general feeling amongst the delegates that it could have been even bigger and involved all the health unions. We need to strike together.
“This is a day of rage against the Government and employers. We should use it as a platform to build the confidence of union members and for activists to put pressure on the trade union leadership to call more strikes and more coordinated strikes.
“Workers who are not currently on strike or not members of a trade union should join with us on that day, as well as university and school students.
"Working-class Britain is seething with anger. Let’s make Wednesday a festival of resistance.”
Rail workers on strike
Among the employees that will be on the picket line on Tuesday are train drivers, in the latest of a series of strikes affecting the railways.
They are calling for a pay rise to help with the increasing cost of living, but have not yet been able to reach an agreement with the Government.
A spokesman for Wigan ASLEF said: “To date the cost of the disputes on the rail industry has been £500m. And this cost has been subsidised by public taxation without any public approval. This is more than enough to settle the pay claims and get the service up and running.
"We lose money in trying to protect the rail service and ensure safety for the travelling public, and the companies lose nothing in denying the public a service whilst hiking up ticket prices.”
Teachers walk out of classrooms
Schools across the borough will be affected when members of the National Education Union go on strike on Wednesday.
Teachers and teaching assistants across the country voted overwhelmingly for industrial action as they seek a pay rise and to correct historic real-terms pay cuts.
Members are expected to join the rally in Wigan town centre.
Max Atkins and Karen Parkin, joint secretaries of Wigan NEU, said: “For the last 12 years, teachers and support staff have accepted below-average pay rises. However, this has meant our pay has dropped in real terms by about 20 per cent – and that is before the current inflation level of 10 per cent. Like many other workers, we are having to resort to food banks. This is a disgrace – we are the fifth richest country in the world and yet this Government claims to have no money to pay us all a decent wage.
“We are asking that the pay award is ‘fully funded’ because if it is not, staff will be made redundant – and our support staff colleagues, no matter what union they are in, will be the first to go. Groups and individuals they support – your children – will no longer benefit from their expertise and will fall behind. External support for others will be stopped. Educational visits will be cancelled or you will be asked to contribute more – why should you have to
Civil servants to join rally
Nearly 1,000 members of the PCS union in Wigan, Ashton and Leigh will be on the picket line on Wednesday, joining 100,000 civil servants nationwide in strike action.
They are also in a dispute over pay, with almost all government departments affected.
Wigan branch secretary Dave Semple said: “So poor is DWP pay that hundreds of administrative office grade staff across Wigan area will get a mandatory pay rise when the national minimum wage rises to £10.42 per hour in April 2023. It’s the AO grade staff that make sure people get paid the benefits to which they are entitled. These are skilled, difficult jobs for which the Government’s pay policy shows reckless disregard. Paying them minimum wage is criminally negligent to our public services.
“At the same time, our employer has made thousands of job cuts. DWP staffing has fallen to 86,000, compared with 92,000 just a year ago in January 2022.
“All grades of staff, including our executive officers who work face to face with claimants in local Jobcentres, and even management grades, suffered a five per cent pay cut in 2021 and 11 per cent in 2022. Their work didn’t get five or 11 per cent easier. In fact, like the AO grade staff, their workloads have risen.
"People can’t afford not to take strike action as a result.”
More strike action to come
It is not just on Wednesday when workers will be walking out, with several unions planning further industrial action.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing will strike on Monday, February 6 and Tuesday, February 7 at 73 NHS trusts in England, including Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Also taking action on Monday, February 6 will be ambulance workers from GMB and Unite, which includes staff in Wigan as part of North West Ambulance Service.