November 30th: The women fight back

Earlier this week, the Guardian asked the women of twitter what pissed them off most about the Con-Dem government.  It was a testimony to women’s ingenuity that so many were able to fit so much into 140 characters.  Among the many, many answers given were childcare cuts, attacks on employment rights, legal aid cuts, scrapping EMA, tuition fees, rape crisis funding cuts, attacks on benefits, sex education, female unemployment, cuts to mental health services and reductions in domestic violence support.  This government is waging an all out war on women, while telling us to “Calm down, dears”.

November 30th will see the biggest strike this country has even known – more workers out on strike than during the Miners Strike, the Winter of Discontent or even the General Strike of 1926, and contrary to the popular stereotype of macho trade unionists in flatcaps with whippets, it is women who are leading the charge.  The government wants to take away the “gold-plated” pensions of public sector workers, but this gold plating is as thin as gold leaf.  Women in local government retire on £1,600 on average, hardly an army of Fred the Shreds.

According to the government the people who will be on strike on Wednesday are parasites who contribute nothing to the economy. There are the people who provide our local government services, our healthcare, our education.  And they are overwhelmingly female.

This lack of value placed on public services, reflects the lack of value which is placed on women’s labour.  Despite the Equal Pay act coming in in 1972, as recently as this September women were awarded compensation for years of discriminatory pay practices.  The labour provided by women in the public sector in many cases are roles which women have always done – caring for elderly and disabled people, raising and educating children and nursing the ill were traditionally provided by female family members for free, and with the cuts there is a severe danger that women who provide services as a public good will again be expected to provide them for free in domestic servitude.

Benefit changes also impact disproportionately on women.  In addition to the direct effect of the changes around working families tax credit and child benefit which are overwhelmingly claimed by women, cuts to disability benefits are likely to mean that women end up supporting disabled family members financially as well as practically.

The proposed changes to public sector pensions provision is an additional tax on public sector workers.  While those who caused this crisis walk off with their golden  handshakes huge pension pots, it is public sector workers who are expected to pick up the tab for their mismanagement.

On November 30th, the women will strike back – between two thirds and three quarters of the workers taking action will be female.

As Tyler Durden could have said

 Look.  The people you are coming after are the people you depend on.  We cook your meals, take out your trash, look after you when you are young;nurse you when you are sick and wipe your bums when you are old.

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