Thousands of people will head to Birmingham on Sunday 3 October to protest at the Conservative Party conference. Here, key activists tell us why they are taking the fight against the cuts to the Tories—and why you should join then
Ben Sprung, FBU
In London every single firefighter has been threatened with the sack if we don’t sign up to new terms and conditions.
This is a battle to defend the fire service, which the public and our loved ones rely on, and to protect our terms and conditions.
The imposed changes will affect our shifts and hours—we will see our families less, and we think it will be less safe for the public.
That is why we are fighting back. That includes getting people to the protest against the Tory cuts on 3 October.
Many firefighters will say they aren’t that interested in politics—but they are waking up to the fact that politics is interested in them! They are starting to organise.
We are advertising the protest across our members in London and getting a firefighters’ coach organised.
Ben Sprung is the London regional organiser for the FBU union
Trudy Allen, PCS
In Birmingham, and across the country, our members are extremely concerned about pay freezes, the future of their jobs and the detrimental impact that cuts will have on the services that they provide to the public.
We would urge all those opposed to the massive reduction in public services, often delivered to the most disadvantaged in our society, to attend this march.
Trudy Allen is the Midlands regional organiser for the PCS union
Paul Shaw, Unison
I work with destitute people in Birmingham. We want you to come and join us in sending a loud message to the Tories on 3 October.
The reality is that the Tory cuts will mean people sleeping outdoors and going hungry.
I fear a return to the desolation of the 1980s, because the Tories have embarked on an economic programme similar to when Thatcher destroyed our industries and communities. It is obvious they haven’t changed one bit.
Their whole political ethos is about breaking down society and leaving each individual to fight for themselves—it is divide and conquer in the extreme. Please come and join us in Birmingham—we have to make our voices heard.
Paul Shaw is a Unison union rep in Birmingham (pc)
Katy Clark MP
The absolutely massive cuts being proposed will have a huge impact on everyone, but the poorest in particular.
We need to organise to fight the cuts, for well-funded high quality public services, and a society which recognises that everyone should have the right to a decent living.
We must learn the lessons of the financial crisis and fight for the real changes which are needed.
Katy Clark is the Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran
Jorge Costa, Portugal
Portuguese workers are living in very hard times.
Unemployment is rising to 12 percent and the Portuguese ruling Labour Party, together with our version of the Tories, agree that it is the working class that has to pay for the economic crimes capitalism has committed across Europe.
Their “stabilisation” programme means privatisation, social cuts and wage freezes.
Yet big bosses are making the usual gains.
Last year, in the middle of the crisis, the number of millionaires in Portugal rose by 5 percent.
This is an international scenario.
The left must fight across borders to bring together the victims of this global abuse—women workers, casual labour, immigrants, public sector workers, unemployed people and students.
In Portugal, the Left Bloc is mobilising for this goal, together with social activists of great diversity.
The hope for an alternative is in the struggle and fraternity of European people. Next stop: the Right to Work protest at the Tory conference!
Jorge Costa is a member of the national leadership of the Portuguese Left Bloc and is speaking at the protest
Nicky Symons, Swansea
When I started working for the council I was employed in street cleansing. Workers there always ask why we should be the ones on the frontline of cuts—why the lowest paid workers always seem to be the first the Tories come for. We have to stand up to these attacks.
As a branch we decided to go to the 3 October protest to make the point that it should be the bankers that are made to pay for the crisis, not low-paid workers.
We are busy sending out posters and leaflets encouraging people to come.
We are also going to have a day of action to build for the protest, bringing together trade unions from across Swansea.
Nicky Symons is the joint branch secretary of Swansea City and Council Unison
John McDonnell MP
I’m going to protest at the Tory Party conference because the coalition government’s cuts are already affecting my community. The coalition is sacking local council workers.
There’s a threat to the local health service with cuts and closures. And the Building Schools for the Future fiasco has meant that rebuilding work has halted.
This is just a taste of what’s to come. The October “spending review” will outline much more serious cuts—we have to be preparing for a fight.
We’ve got to mobilise. We’ve got to take it to the Tories and be in their face.
John McDonnell is the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington
This year students are witnessing unprecedented cuts, pushing them into debt and poverty. They can’t meet their basic needs such as food and housing, let alone try and concentrate on studying.
It is vital that students are given sufficient financial support.
That’s why I’m backing the protest and encouraging all students to come.
Rebecca Entwistle is the president of Inverness College student association
Caroline Johnson, Birmingham Unison
People are really keen to join the 3 October demonstration because there is a growing anger and realisation of just how deep cuts are going to be and how serious the attacks are.
We have been doing workplace meetings about the attacks council workers are facing in Birmingham, and talking to people about the protest.
At every meeting workers have voted unanimously for strike action.
We are also doing leaflets with different workers pictured saying, “I’m going to be on the protest because…” and have started putting these out everywhere.
Birmingham Save Our Services—involving trade unionists
and workers and service users—was set up months ago to coordinate campaigns across the city against service cuts.
We agreed at our last meeting to back the demo.
We’ve had a Tory-Liberal council in Birmingham for five years now—we’ve had a hard taste of what the Tories plans are.
They are continuing to push their privatisation agenda, closing services, and now want to cut our pay and weekend allowances.
Birmingham is the biggest council in the country.
If they get away with it here
they will think they can do it everywhere.
That’s why people should join us on 3 October—not just to show our opposition to cuts, but also to show that we are not alone.
Caroline Johnson is the assistant branch secretary of Birmingham Unison
The cuts are blighting a generation. The Tories have cut half of the extra university places that were meant to be available this year. They propose cuts to further education and the rest of the public sector that will have devastating effects on all sections of our society. Students must unite with trade unions at the protest. The Conservatives may be in government, but we are still the ones with the power to effect change.
Kanja Sesay is the NUS’s Black Students Officer
The fact that university places have been cut in a year when up to 200,000 students won’t get places is disgusting. We can’t afford to have another lost generation.
I just can’t understand the logic behind cutting public services, forcing people on to welfare, and then cutting the only financial support they have. There has never been a more important time to protest, and the Conservative Party conference protest is our opportunity. I will be definitely be there.
Sophia James is an LGBT rep at Leeds University student union
Debs Gwynn, NUT
In Merseyside so far, three local union branches have donated money for coaches to the protest at the Tory conference—St Helens NUT, Liverpool NUJ, and Liverpool Metropolitan University UCU.
When I raised the demo at the NUT meeting, people were excited and agreed to back it. Then one rep said, “Why should we go on the Liverpool coach? Let’s book our own,” and everyone agreed.
It isn’t surprising—school staff are furious about the coalition spending cuts.
Liverpool is one of the areas to have been hit badly by the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme. Only two schools (both academies) will now be rebuilt in the city.
And class sizes in schools will rise as our budgets are slashed and staff made redundant.
I work with students with emotional and behavioural difficulties who need small classes. So I’m particularly concerned about how they will be affected by the cuts.
The push towards academies and free schools is all about the privatisation of our education system, which will favour the rich and middle classes.
We need to fight back and reclaim a comprehensive, state education system for all. That’s why we backed the demo.
Debs Gwynn is the convenor of Merseyside Right to Work, and the Equalities Officer of St Helens NUT
Ashley Harris, People First
Cardiff People First is a self-advocacy group run by and for people with learning difficulties.
We are very excited about coming on the demonstration. To be honest, we can’t hold people back—they are ready to protest.
We had already been discussing the possibility of going to protest against the cuts at Downing Street. But when we heard about the Tory conference protest we decided to join in with that.
The Independent Living Fund, which supports people with learning difficulties living in the community, ran out of money in June. And the decision has been taken that no new requests for support would be considered.
We have been told that support can only be accessed if you work 16 hours a week.
This is a huge restriction for many people with learning difficulties.
We’re glad to be part of a wider demonstration that targets the broad impact of the cuts. We are having a banner and placard making session in the run up to the protest.
As one of our members said in our cuts meeting, “I remember what the Tories did last time—I don’t want to go back to that.”
Ashley Harris is the co-ordinator of Cardiff People First
Signatories to statement of support for 3 October demo include:
The demonstration is supported nationally by:
Local and regional backing includes:
Sunday 3 October, 12 noon, Birmingham
more details www.righttowork.org.uk