Socialist Worker

May Day 2007 across Britain: readers' reports

Issue No. 2049

About 60 staff and students joined a lively dinnertime protest outside Barnsley College today to protest at the threatened cuts to Esol language classes.

The staff were from the college UCU lecturers’ union branch and most of the students were on Esol courses. Standing under the principal's office window they chanted non-stop for an hour.

Apart from college speakers, Pete Bevis, a national executive member of the NUT, and Yvonne Cass, organiser of the Barnsley Migrant and Refugee Community Organisiation. spoke about the importance of Esol courses and why they had to be defended.

Dave Gibson


Bristol

Health workers at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol held a lunchtime protest outside the main hospital gate as the launch of the fight for an above inflation pay rise. The demonstration was the first trade union demo at the hospital for eight years and has given a real boost to union activists.

The protest was called by Unison in solidarity with PCS strikers and supported by Amicus.

Trade unionists were joined by representatives from the Save Frenchay Hospital Group and Keep our NHS Public campaign, giving the protest a broader base and a feel that the fightback against cuts to public services and attacks on workers’ pay must be joined-up.

Sarah Creagh


Central Middlesex Hospital

About 50 domestics, porters and other staff from Central Middlesex Hospital, whose work has been contracted out held a lunchtime protest outside the hospital.

Other workers from the hospital, trade unionists and local health campaigners joined the protest.

Pat McManus, the North West London Hospitals Unison union branch secretary, led the protest. Pat recently left the Labour Party, after many years as an active member, in disgust at their warmongering and the destruction of the NHS.

Tim Danby, Respect candidate in a forthcoming local council by-election, joined the protesters to show solidarity.

The domestics and other contracted out staff are paid less than workers doing the same job who are employed by the NHS.

The Department of Health funded a 5 percent pay rise back in 2004 but the cash-strapped hospital trust has so far refused to implement it.

While Tuesday's protest was held in the workers' lunch break, future industrial action is not ruled out. They are determined to see justice done.

Sarah Cox


Ealing

A large crowd of Unison members were joined by teachers from the NUT and NASUWT teachers’ unions on Ealing Town Hall steps at lunchtime.

Chris Morey spoke on behalf of Ealing Unison members, John Hubberstone spoke on behalf of the NASUWT and Nick Grant on behalf of the NUT.

The Ealing Gazette came and took photos of the protest including Nick Grant holding a cap full of peanuts to represent what Gordon Brown is going to give us instead of a decent pay rise.

Adam Smith


Lambeth

Tenants protested to demand a ballot on the council’s plans to transfer their homes to an Arms length management organisation.

Some 80 people attended a debate organised by Larkhall Labour Party in Clapham the week before on council housing

Steve Reed, the leader of the council and Lambeth's Divisional Director of Housing debated with Jean Kerrigan, the vice chair of the tenants’ council and member of Lambeth Defend Council Housing (DCH), and Kate Hoey MP.

Lambeth's plans to transfer managment of 35,000 council homes to an Almo.

Kate Hoey said that with a change of prime mInister ensuing now was the time to put more pressure on the government to concede the fourth option that tenants wanted and demanded Lambeth give tenants a ballot on the Almo.

Not one tenant in the room spoke up for the Almo.

Forty tenants also attended an eve of May Day Defend Council Housing meeting in Brixton. The guest speakers were Carole Swords from Tower Hamlets DCH and PCS striker Andy Reid. They talked about the importance of tenants and workers fighting together for public services.

Opposition to the Almo is growing all the time and pressure is mounting on the New Labour council to concede a ballot.

Steve Hack


Luton

About 70 people marched through Luton to rally on the steps of Luton Town Hall in solidarity with the PCS strike. The march included council candidates from Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems—parties who support the cuts and privatisation that the PCS members were striking against.

Dave Barnes of the national executive of the TSSA rail workers union addressed the rally. He said “it is great to see representatives from all the main parties here but none of these parties are supporting the PCS fight. That is why I have been campaigning for Respect.”

Paul Moffat, of the national executive of the CWU postal workers’ union, pledged their support for PCS describing the fight against privatisation in the post as the same fight faced by civil servants with the same opponent in Gordan Brown.

Kerry Fairless, a local PCS rep, won support from the rally when he said “they can afford to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq but they can not afford to pay the national minimum wage to our members.

“They have privatised out tax office and sold it to a company that operates from a tax haven”. Gary Winder of the PCS national executive and Kelvin Hopkins MP for Luton North.

Kelvin made clear his opposition to privatisation and effective wage cuts for public sector workers.

The rally was organised by Geoff Webb of the PCS in Luton. He wound up the rally by saying, “This is just the start. From now on we should have a May Day rally every year in Luton”


Nottingham

Picket lines sprung up with the sunshine all over Nottingham this May Day. Besides the main civil service workplaces all sorts of office blocks in the city, housing a civil service work unit, sprouted a PCS picket in the door way.

There were many experienced pickets and many first time pickets.

It was the weather for picketing outside, not working inside, but Julie Webster reported from the Bowman House picket line that some determined arguing had persuaded two people not to cross.

Elsewhere, the Driving Standards Agency had a barbecue round the back entrance. Everyone reported the post being turned away.

Later up to 200 strikers marched through the city centre, lead by the Grim Reaper, and with one in five of the marchers—the proportion of the workforce facing cuts—wearing T-shirts labelled 'Cancelled by the Exchequer'.

Gill Watts from Revenue and Customs, reported how the Nottingham PCS town committee had taken up the Make Your Vote Count campaign by writing to every prospective councillor in the area—400 of them.

Ivan Wels, joint secretary of Nottinghamshire National Union of Teachers, pointed out the areas of common struggle, and said that from its conference the NUT was committed to greater local co-operation between public sector unions.

This call was later echoed from the floor by John Allan from the government conciliation service Acas. Paul Williams, PCS Department for Transport Group President said that inter-union co-operation in defence of public service be on the PCS’s agenda after the local elections.

May Day was celebrated properly in Nottingham.

John Shemeld


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Thu 3 May 2007, 11:48 BST
Issue No. 2049
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