Socialist Worker

Together on May Day in a foretaste of what's needed

Issue No. 2049

Anti-war marchers were part of London

Anti-war marchers were part of London's May Day protest - and many other demos throughout Britain (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Across Britain workers joined May Day marches on Tuesday or took the chance to hold protests in their own workplaces.

NHS workers protested at hospitals against cuts and low pay. Local government workers highlighted cuts and attacks on pensions, while lecturers and students protested over attacks on language teaching.

Housing campaigners gathered outside town halls to call for direct investment in council housing and made clear to elected councillors that privatisation is unacceptable.

Anti-war groups marched with trade unionists against Tony Blair's legacy – and Gordon Brown's intention to continue it.

Jacqui Freeman reports, 'Around 200 students, union members and cleaners joined a May Day protest in support of cleaners at central London universities.

'The cleaners – who come from countries across the world – are fighting for a living wage of £7.05 an hour, union recognition, pension rights, sick pay and 20 days' annual leave.

'Respect MP George Galloway spoke at a rally. The demonstration went past London universities that employ cleaners from the Ocean cleaning company or Sodexho.

'We marched to join the workers at University College Hospital (UCH) who were also holding a protest. We jointly stopped the traffic.' Some 60 health workers and their supporters gathered outside UCH and around 40 at Central Middlesex hospital.

In Preston, Respect councillor Michael Lavalette toured the PCS picket lines to offer support. He told Socialist Worker, 'I was also invited by the PCS to a hustings for council candidates at lunchtime. The PCS invited candidates from all the parties, but only Respect turned up.

'We went down really well with the strikers. There was a real desire for unity across the public sector.'

'Two hundred people marched in Sheffield,' says Alan Kenny. 'PCS strikers joined the march and there were union banners from the PCS, the NUJ, the trades council and the T&G. 'Speakers at the rally included Respect council candidate Maxine Bowler.'

GMB members protested outside Marks & Spencer's headquarters in London over conditions at one of the company's suppliers.

Last month the union warned of the danger of a serious accident at the Bakkavor hummus plant in London following production line changes after salmonella problems at the plant.

A great show of united struggle across Manchester

Manchester Community and Mental Health branch of Unison, which recently held successful strike action to beat cuts to their jobs and services, held a number of lunchtime protests over pay.

Health workers gathered outside four hospitals in the city bringing banners and placards saying, 'No to PFI', 'Support your NHS' and 'Keep the NHS working'.

Outside Manchester Royal Infirmary, 60 health workers were joined by about 50 students from Manchester university and some lecturers.

Andrew Cunningham, Manchester university student union campaigns officer elect, told Socialist Worker, 'We held a protest outside the vice-chancellors' office before marching to join the health workers. The protest got loads of support from passers-by – the bus drivers and other motorists are honking horns.'

Palestinian activist Nasreen Hunain was also on the protest at Manchester Royal Infirmary. She told Socialist Worker, 'It is good that we are keeping the spirit of May Day alive and that students are linking up with workers.'

In Chorlton, south Manchester, health workers were joined by a group of Unison members from the local social services office who brought their own banner demanding 'Fund Pensions, Not War'. Local pensioners and anti-war activists joined the protest.

Karen Reissmann, Unison branch chair, joined the lively protest outside North Manchester hospital. She said, 'There are around 40 health workers here demanding fair pay. We are getting a lot of support from the public – they support our fight for better pay.'

Four Amicus union reps from Fujitsu in Manchester took the day off to visit PCS picket lines and join the health protests.

Amicus NEC member Ian Allinson told Socialist Worker, 'We also used May Day to launch a national union recruitment campaign across Fujitsu. Members have been leafleting at least five Fujitsu sites.'

'The next government will inherit massive unrest'

Over 200 people packed into a lunchtime May Day rally in the T&G halls in Glasgow.

Strikers from the PCS civil service workers' union were joined by delegations from the T&G, RMT and Unison unions.

Joy Dunn, a PCS NEC member, told the rally, 'Whoever becomes the next Scottish government will inherit massive industrial unrest.

'And we won't be accepting Gordon Brown's agenda of massive cuts and privatisation of our services.'

The T&G held a press conference before the rally. T&G Scottish secretary Mike Brider pledged the union's full support for the PCS's struggle.

In Liverpool, over 250 joined a march through the city to a rally in Derby Square – an area which is surrounded by a number of important civil service workplaces.

Striking PCS members were joined by delegations of other workers, groups of students and members of Merseyside Stop the War Coalition.

The rally heard from a number of speakers including Lindsey German, national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, who was cheered when she talked about linking the struggles of working people to the issue of the war.

There was a lively PCS union picket at Watford's DCLG Fire Statistics Branch where the strike was 100 percent solid.

It was followed by a rally in the town centre supported by Hertfordshire FBU and CWU branches.

PCS members were joined by other trade unionists at a rally in Luton.

Thanks to everyone who sent in reports and pictures.

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Tue 1 May 2007, 19:22 BST
Issue No. 2049
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