Over 500 public workers and their supporters went on strike on Wednesday, marching through the Kingston streets in protest of public sector pension reforms.
Led by chants of “they say ‘cut back’, we say ‘fight back’!” and “solidarity forever!”, Kingston residents blocked traffic as they marched down Penrhyn Road, just hours after Chancellor George Osborne revealed more public sector pay cuts.
Elizabeth Evans, a Kingston University politics lecturer and UCU member, said: “The government’s attacks on our pensions are completely unprecedented. I stand to lose over £300,000 over my lifetime.
“I think the scale and depth of the public cuts and the way it affects public sector workers is unacceptable. I want to be part of the broader movement to resist those changes.”
Even those not affected by the pension reforms came out in support of their friends and family.
Kingston representatives from numerous unions, including UNISON, PCS, UCU, NUT and GMB were on hand, receiving a police escort at 10AM from Kingston University’s Penrhyn Road campus to the town centre.
Matthew Smith of Kingston GMB estimated the strike began with 400 people and swelled to 600 as the march picked up picketers at Surrey County Council, Crown Court, Kingston College and Guildhall.
Mr Smith added that he was “really pleased” at how well the strike was policed.
A spokesman from the Public and Commercial Services union said: “Today has been one of the most successful strikes in the history of the public sector. We haven’t seen a strike like this since 1926.”
The strikers finally set up camp in the courtyard outside Costcutters, adjacent to the Hippodrome, where numerous union representatives and local residents spoke to the crowd from a makeshift dais.
Most who participated were excited and surprised by the large turnout.
Local resident David Campanale, NUJ executive member and BBC World News journalist, said: “It’s a great turnout and it’s fantastic to see so many people from across the public sector and across the unions.”
Ms Evans agreed, saying she found the turnout in Kingston “inspiring”.
Not all residents, however, were pleased by the strike action.
An older man shouted unprovoked at a group of protesting women as he walked by, saying: “I’m still working at my age, ladies, don’t expect my support.”
Following several speeches from participants, the strike dispersed around 11am as many strikers caught the bus or train to join the larger strikes in central London.