THOUSANDS OF council workers, health and education workers joined the 17 July strike throughout Northern Ireland, picketing council offices, education and health boards, leisure centres and police stations.

The unions - NIPSA, UNISON, GMB and SIPTU - reported that over 90% of workers came out. Hundreds crammed into Transport House, Belfast for a rally.

Socialist Party member Ciaran Molloy, TGWU shop steward, Belfast city council told the meeting: "Last year I earned £14,800 as a mobile park ranger. This includes shift allowances, weekend allowances, bonuses and overtime.

"We try to ensure that the parks are safe for the public. We’ve been assaulted, hijacked, spat at and verbally assaulted. We’re badly understaffed. We want the full 6%. We don’t want to be offered 3.5% or 3.6%. Our members say it’s not worth striking for less than 6%."

Socialist Party member Eimear Duffy said it was inspiring to see so many women workers fighting for equal pay.

"Women earn only 78-80% in comparison to men in the public service. Women workers demand that the trade unions fight for equal pay. Winning the £1,750 would be a first step in this fight."

In Derry the airport closed as council and airport staff joined with the colleges in demanding a 6% pay rise. Council services came to a standstill as workers closed amenity centres, recycling stations and stopped bin collections. Around 200 strikers, took part in a rally.

The strike showed how the trade unions can build a united working-class movement which can cut across sectarian division.

On the Protestant Shankill Road, Catholic trade unionists joined Protestant workers in picketing the leisure centre. The public’s support and the public sector workers’ enthusiasm to take action should be enough reason to step up the industrial action until low-paid workers win the 6%.

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