Anger over mounting job losses brought more than 7,000 people onto the streets of Birmingham last Saturday for the Unite union’s national march for jobs.
Workers from all over the country joined the protest to make their feelings clear.
The march united public and private sector workers with students and the unemployed.
Around 70 workers from the threatened Corus steelworks in Teesside headed the protest. They are pledging to fight the closure of their plant.
Bob Stainthorpe, the senior Unite convenor at Corus Teesside, told Socialist Worker, “People are bloody angry about the mothballing of our plant. We want to save it, and we are going to fight to save Teesside. We will do whatever it takes.
“We have seen lots of job losses at the plant as it has gone from 30,000 to 3,000 workers – now those are at threat too.”
Ian Challenor of the Community union at Corus Teesside said, “The job losses would have a massive knock on effect on lots of other jobs. If the jobs go it will encourage the next generation to move out of the area.
“There’s been a massive increase in job losses and it’s all to do with corporate profiteering. The government had to hand support to the banks but it should be supporting manufacturing as well.”
Many other groups of workers whose jobs are under threat were on the protest. They marched alongside workers from Visteon who have just won an important victory.
A worker at Schott Industrial Glass, Durham, said, “Our workplace is due to close at the end of September. Around 150 workers are employed there.
“There have been ongoing redundancies and the mood is very low. For the past 18 months we’ve taken pay cuts and cuts in hours – people accepted it because they hoped it might save jobs.
“I’m marching to support people’s right to get jobs. Why should MPs get all the money? They should put some money back into the system.”
Charlie Carr from the University of Cumbria was one of the many students at the protest. She said, “Many of us are third years and it’s daunting when you think about leaving university and trying to get a job. There’s just nothing out there.”
Julie, a service sector worker in Birmingham, said, “I’m here because I’m worried about jobs. I’m here for my children – what future have they got? There’s no careers for people any more, just temporary and part time work.”
Workers from the Vauxhall Ellesmere Port in Merseyside and the General Motors (GM) van plant in Luton joined the demonstration. Both plants face uncertain futures because of parent company GM’s troubles.
Mushtaq Parker, a Unite rep at Luton, said, “I’m here to let the government know that it needs to do something to save jobs. There are 2,000 workers at GM in Luton and we don’t know if the plant will stay open. I think people will fight for their jobs.”
Mick Whitley, a Unite union official, came to the protest with a big delegation of workers from Ellesmere Port. He said, “We are marching to safeguard jobs. People are on a four-day week at Ellesmere Port.
“If GM goes into bankruptcy in the US there will be huge problems for Europe. Thousands of workers’ jobs will be under threat. We will be looking to the government to support us.”
Pat Kiely, a former union senior steward at Land Rover in Birmingham, said, “The situation today brings back memories of the bad old days of the Margaret Thatcher years. There’s been a huge erosion of manufacturing in Birmingham.
“We need to get some money from the government to stop it. Some of my family are still in the car trade and it’s all doom and gloom in their workplaces.”
There was fury over the way that MPs were claiming tens of thousands of pounds in expenses, while they do nothing to stop the economic crisis hitting workers.
Larry McGuinness, a Unite member at Transport for London, said, “They say that it was all within the rules, but morally they knew it was wrong. I wish I could afford a massage chair, a tennis court and a moat around my flat, but I can’t.
“Labour MPs were involved in it. There’s a canteen culture where as soon as they get elected someone tells them how to get on the gravy train, and that’s what they do.
“We’re going to need more marches over jobs. We need one in central London. We need to take this fight to the lions’ den – outside 10 Downing Street.”
Many on march fear BNP will gain from crisis
Many people on the jobs protest in Birmingham were concerned by the fascist British National Party’s (BNP) attempts to capitalise on the impact of the economic crisis.
Anwar Shah, a Unite union steward from GM Luton, said, “The BNP is trying to play on people’s fears and we need to educate people about what immigration brings to the country.
“The ‘British jobs for British workers’ slogan is a problem. I want to protect British workers but, as a trade unionist, I have to defend the right of free movement of labour.”
The BNP hopes to win votes in the forthcoming European and county council elections in June.
Thenji Macanda and Moyo Adunola, who both work at Thompsons solicitors in Birmingham, joined the march.
They told Socialist Worker, “It’s important to show support and solidarity for the union movement at a time when the jobs situation is affecting everyone.
“No one is safe. The BNP is a fascist and discriminatory party.
“But demonstrations like this show that no matter what race or creed people are, we’re all going through the same thing.
“We have to show that we’re united and will support one another.
“Protests like this can help to spread that message, which can help us overcome the BNP.”
Additional reporting by Sadie Robinson