Some 350 defiant trade unionists, socialists and people from the community descended on Mansion House in Doncaster last Saturday in support of suspended Unison union convenor Jim Board.
Senior council management suspended Jim on Monday of last week after he spoke to the media about the case of two brothers who attacked two children in Edlington, near Doncaster.
With massive attacks planned on public services in Doncaster, many see Jim’s suspension as an attempt by council bosses and the mayor to weaken the union.
The mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, is a member of the far-right English Democrats.
He recently condemned Unison at a press conference and called for workers to join the nationalist union affiliated to his own party – the Workers of England union.
Jim’s suspension caused uproar in Doncaster. He is the most well-known face of trade unionism in the town.
The mayor believes he can undermine the trade union movement, attacking public services in his crusade against “politically correct non-jobs”.
He is even attempting to ban the use of the word “diversity” in the council.
This is more than an attack on “political correctness” – it is an attempt to enforce his own variety of “political correctness”, that of the far-right.
That is why so many people gathered to protest on Saturday.
The crowd was incredibly diverse with many young people, as well as members of the LGBT community.
There were speakers from Unison’s national executive, the GMB and UCU unions, with messages of support from all over the country.
Sue Highton, a former president of Unison, said of the council bosses, “They have taken on Unison as a whole when they’ve taken on Jim. Well, come on then.
“Either leave him alone or you’ll be taking us all on.”
Paul Holmes from Kirklees Unison spoke of the need for rank and file members to support Jim.
“Ordinary workers are being expected to pay for the crisis and many are saying they’re not having it,” he said.
“In this situation, the other side try to decapitate the leadership.”
Robin Symonds of Yorkshire & Humberside Unison described the attack on Jim as an attack on every working person in Doncaster.
John Westmoreland from Unite against Fascism spoke of Doncaster’s proud history of trade unionism and working class struggle.
He ended his speech with the battle cry, “Kick the mayor out of the Mansion House!” to rapturous applause.
This sent a message to the mayor loud and clear – but we need to keep up the momentum.
Jim has the full support of the union nationally so far, and there will be a ballot for industrial action.
But we cannot rely on this. The recent examples of unofficial strike action show that it is the actions of ordinary workers that will prove decisive in the campaign to defend Jim and the public sector in Doncaster.