Significant meetings of anti-cuts activists took place in Birmingham and Glasgow last week to prepare for the protest at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham on 3 October.
The Birmingham meeting brought together members of the FBU, PCS, NUT, UCU and Unison unions with trades council representatives and students.
And a crowd of 75 people packed into Glasgow’s STUC hall to hear a broad spectrum of opposition to the Tories at Right to Work’s first all-Scotland planning meeting.
“The government is applying shock and awe tactics against workers,” Andrew Lloyd, regional secretary of the PCS civil service union, told the meeting in Birmingham.
“They would rather sack 25,000 civil service workers and attack so-called benefit cheats than tackle the rich tax evaders who cost us £120 billion a year.
“But this government isn’t invincible, we can overcome them. We need to act now.”
Council worker Alistair Wingate reported on a meeting he attended with 25 workers at a leisure centre facing privatisation in the city’s Handsworth area.
He said, “The workers were shocked about the cuts, but glad that there was also going to be a demo in Birmingham. People took away posters and leaflets.
“We need to involve them and convince them to bring their families and people they know—if we tap into these networks the demo could be massive.”
Alliya Stennett, a member of the lecturers’ UCU union, called on people to reach out to community groups and the voluntary sector.
Alliya said, “The voluntary sector could be smashed—but some campaigns have already won. We have to organise around every cut and build the demo at the same time.”
There was consensus that the trade union movement needs to stand together to beat the Tories.
“If we stand united we can have them running scared,” said Chris Downes, regional officer of Midlands Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
“We cannot allow our members to get numb to the cuts, we have to act now,” Andrew Dennis, another FBU member, added.
People agreed it was important to involve MPs and councillors who wanted to fight back. Labour councillors Penny Holbrook and Ian Cruise both sent apologies to the meeting.
Andrew Lloyd said, “Some people may think it is wrong to involve the Labour Party, but I’m not for turning them away.
“We cannot pretend that they didn’t do things we opposed, but we will work with them in an open-eyed partnership if they want to be part of a fightback.”
The meeting adopted a plan of action, including setting up working groups and agreeing to leaflet various festivals and university freshers’ fairs.
In Glasgow, Cheryl Gedling of the PCS national executive pointed to the damage the cuts will do.
She said, “This country will be unrecognisable in five years time unless we begin the fight back now.
“The PCS will work with anybody who wants to resist the Tory cuts.”
Pete Murray, the president of the National Union of Journalists, said that unions were beginning to find their voice and that there was a mood to fight. He said, “Right to Work is all about building united action now.”
FBU Scotland organiser Jim Malone told people to “go back to your workplaces and communities to spread the word—there is an opposition that’s starting to organise itself.”
Campaigners from Stop the War Coalition, asylum groups, the unemployed, and the women’s movement were present. Katy Clark, the Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, sent a message of support to the meeting.
A speaker read a statement from the Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre, which faces closure.
The meeting expressed unanimous support for the 3 October demonstration and elected a
provisional committee for the Right to Work Scotland conference in November.
In Birmingham, Leo Fisher from Telford Unison summed up the growing mood around the protest. He said, “We are pushing at an open door—people are scared but they are also angry.
“The protest is a beacon of light, a chance for us to unite and show resistance to the cuts.”
For more information go to www.righttowork.org.uk