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US nurses union rallies in support of British strikers


Sue Tapply
WVoN co-editor

Rallies supporting the UK’s national strike today (November 30) are to be held in six US cities to protest against cuts to pubic sector pensions.

With up to two million British workers expected to join the biggest strike in the United Kingdom in a generation on November 30, the largest union of registered nurses in the US has announced that it will hold support rallies for British nurses and other workers.

US nurses, joined in some cities by other union members, will hold noon rallies at the British Embassy in Washington and at British consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Francisco.

The actions come while government officials in both the USA and the UK push reductions in retirement security and other cuts.

Unions in both countries warned that deficit reduction as proposed will lead to increased levels of economic inequality, unemployment, and poverty, exacerbating the crisis in both nations.

In the UK, some 30 unions representing nurses, teachers, paramedics, civil servants, and other public sector workers will be protesting plans by the coalition government to cut public pensions.

And these support rallies will remind the American public of threats to US Social Security as well.

A letter will be delivered to Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Great Britain’s Ambassador to the US.

National Nurses Union (NNU) executive director RoseAnn DeMoro said US nurses strongly support British workers “who are standing up for their rights and for the integrity of public services in your country.

“We urge the British government to stop its attempt to make public sector workers pay more and work longer to receive a smaller pension when they retire.

“The government’s plans will impact women the most, who already suffer from lower pensions.

“This attack on the people who provide patient care at the National Health Service, teach school children, and provide essential public services is unconscionable,” she said.

Among major participants in the UK strike is UNISON, a trade union whose members include many nurses and other healthcare workers.

The strikers are saying no to ‘pay more, work longer, get less’, a so-called ‘triple squeeze’ in which pensions are reduced and age eligibility extended.

“The plans are just a cynical move to raise 4 billion [British pounds] to pay down the deficit caused by the bankers,” said Karen Jennings, UNISON’s assistant general secretary.

One solution put forward both in the US and in the UK is for a financial transaction tax (FTT) – in Britain termed a ‘Robin Hood Tax’.

An FTT is a sales tax aimed at speculative trading and would, according to the NNU, raise up to $350 billion a year in the US alone.

“Nurses see what this economy is doing to our communities in stress, dislocation, and poverty,” said Karen Higgins, a Registered Nurse and NNU co-president.

“We are going out in support of UNISON, drawing the line against cuts to retirement security and other essentials for working families.”

For rally info, click here.

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