The sex workers’ branch of the GMB union will join, later today, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers that go on strike over pensions, both in England and Wales.
Public sector workers – most of them teachers – have called a strike because of the Government’s proposals to change pensions for public sector workers and also in protest against the announced spending cuts. All across the country, schools and universities are to close, while disruptions in courts’ services and airports are also expected.
Four unions are taking part of the strike: three teaching unions (NUT, ATL and UCU) and the PCS - which involves, among others, prison workers, immigration staff, air traffic controllers. The trade union GMB hasn’t joined the strike, but one of its branches – the sex workers’ branch – has decided to show solidarity with public sector workers.
A “symbolic” gesture
“All workers are concerned with the cuts on public services, even if I’m not a public sector worker”, the President of the GMB sex workers’ branch, Thierry Schaffauser, says.
The branch has sent a solidarity message to all the unions on strike, and all the unionized sex workers were informed about the picket lines spread across London, having been encouraged to join the public sector workers on the streets.
“I don’t know if anyone will do it, but I think we will have a banner to show other workers that we support them and that we are part of the same movement”, Mr Schaffauser says: “the fact that we have no labour rights, the fact that the law prevents us from working more than one person in the same premise, the fact that there’s no tradition, there’s no culture of unionism in our industry, obviously doesn’t help to organize workers in the union”.
Thierry Schaffauser, from the GMB union, explains the small visibility of their actions:
Aside from showing their solidarity, the sex workers that join the picket lines will also call for a change in sex work laws, as well as for measures against violence and exploitation inside the sex industry.
Strike action is “unnecessary and premature”
“Strike action is unnecessary and premature while discussions – set up at the request of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) – are ongoing”, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said: “the Government has always been committed to working openly and constructively with the TUC on public sector pensions and we believe both sides have a responsibility to see the talks through”.
Reacting to the number of workers mobilized by the unions, Mr Maude said that “the majority of civil servants and teachers themselves did not vote for this action, showing how extremely limited support is for this strike”.
Mr Maude also reiterated the Coalition Government’s determination to carry out the reform on public sector pensions, saying it is “inevitable”: public sector pensions “will be paid later because people live longer – and public sector staff will pay more, for a fairer balance between what they pay and what other taxpayers pay”.