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Been out on the picket line – I’ll see you at the bar. By Ellie Henman

by on December 9, 2011

A week has passed since the public sector strikes and the general furore has died down already. Maybe not in the offices of UNITE or UNISON, or in the minds of those scorned by the governments pension proposals, but in the harsh light of reality.

I walked to a local cheap pub last Wednesday, a beer and burger for less than an off-peak travel card to reward myself for begging at the doors of two job agencies. I hasten to add these were for jobs that I really do not want but I cannot afford to be fussy. I sat for an hour with a friend mulling over the poor quality of my hard earned food when I discovered we were in fact sitting on a placard.

‘UNISON – fighting for decent pensions’

Thus I realised that we were in fact sat on the front line of the disheartened masses. It comes to me as no surprise that they were drowning their sorrows as I stand by the opinion that their action, that day, has taken them nowhere, but to the bar.

The news coverage on the lead up to, on the actual day and in the smattered reports the next morning were more concentrated on the effects their actions would have, and did have, on the country. Rather than fighting the ‘good fight’, their demonstrations were portrayed more as vague punches thrown at the rest of a squeezed population.

What I ask did they achieve from this? They are back at the beginning again. The proposed pension package has not changed. The rest of the country is still fighting their hardest to stay afloat rather than sink. What smacks of desperation now is this pointless attempt to make a stand for something that is a means to a necessary end.

I have listened to the arguments for the strikes – I understand that in real terms, some may actually end up earning less than they did before, harder off than ever and having to cope with the rising cost of living. However I believe that the best move now would be for some constructive action. Keep working, keep the economy moving and do the best you can – like the rest of us.

For those still infuriated by the ‘injustice’ caused to them – you have two to three years till the next general election. Start a political party. Build up a support base. The millions who walked out I am sure would invest in a badge, a poster and maybe even a rosette. Put your strongest and brightest at the top. Devise a manifesto. Plan and co-ordinate a tight, coherent campaign. Draft feasible, workable economic policies that could keep the country out of the dark unknown our neighbours on the channel are slowly slipping into. If those who stood shoulder to shoulder on the streets to wave their hands and chant languorous slogans could work hard enough on something more credible, to win even one seat in parliament would surely be a greater, worthwhile victory.

Will this happen? I doubt it. It is easier to walk out for a day, achieve little but a probable head cold from the bad weather and possibly become a tad ‘tired and emotional’ in the local, cheap pub after the whole tiresome charade.

I can empathise but sadly I cannot sympathise. I earn less than eight thousand pounds a year. I have yet to find a ‘proper’ job on leaving University. I work at night in two pubs and intern for free in my field in the day. I pay rent and council tax and household bills. At one point I worked seven days a week for seven months. I did not moan, as it would not get me anywhere. I did not walk out of my job, stand on the streets and demand that the government give me something that they cannot afford. I will not do this. Not just because I cannot afford to, but because I believe that our country will come out of the other side. We need a collective, unified effort that shares the mutual struggle and hardship that is befalling many. Stand together and shoulder the brunt as one, or divide and stay weaker.

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