Tomorrow, around two million public sector workers begin a one-day strike over government plans to change their pensions. In total, 23 unions having voted for industrial action and everything from the courts to council services and hospitals will be affected. It's a measure of how much this represents the first serious mainstream challenge to the Coalition government - one sadly missing from the Labour opposition - that ministers like Education Secretary Michael Gove have resorted to red-baiting in the desperate hope that this may dent the 61% of the public who support strike action, according to yesterday's opinion poll commissioned by BBC News. There's a useful analysis of the claims and counter-claims by Polly Curtis on the Guardian website that illustrates the weakness of the government's case.
In Newham, however, despite the inevitable disruption, it may be easy to miss the fact that strikes are even taking place. Friends of mine who work in the public sector been rather hazy about whether there will be picket lines anywhere in the borough and the False Economy website, which has a map of activities taking place across London, includes nothing about Newham but a host of activities taking place in neighbouring Tower Hamlets, including a march from George Greens School on the Isle of Dogs to Canary Wharf as a warm-up for the SERTUC rally and march from Lincoln's Inn Fields. I'm not sure what this says about the generally demoralised state of local politics and union activism here in Newham - it's not as though there won't be extensice strike action taking place. Newham council reports that the majority of local schools will close, as will Beckton Globe, Green Street and Docklands Local Service Centres. This map shows the extent of the strikes in the borough:
View Newham N30 Strike Map in a larger map
If all goes to plan, I'll be heading into town for noon to join the march to Victoria Embankment. Let's hold the police don't decide to kettle protesters and that the key advice from Green & Black Cross won't be needed tomorrow.