Socialist Worker

Workers support for students is key

The student fightback is inspiring workers—but the union movement needs to step up the battle

Issue No. 2232

A PCS banner on the student protest  (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

A PCS banner on the student protest (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


Lots of workers support the students. They are cheered by the fact that people are fighting back against a hated government that wants to wreck our lives.

But there is nowhere near enough support from the official trade union movement—and that needs to change fast.

In the aftermath of last week’s protests, union leaders should have rushed to condemn the police violence against students and defend the right to protest. Not enough did.

But many workers have given support to students and have also joined the protests and occupations.

Jamie Woodcock, a student in Manchester, said, “We launched a ‘sponsor a student’ appeal to get funding for coaches and raised over £1,000 from trade unionists, parents and others.”

And some workers even walked out on the day to join student protests.

Teachers at Islington sixth form college in north London voted to do so unanimously.

Teachers from nearby Stoke Newington school came too. After 55 teachers signed a petition, the headteacher agreed that a delegation of four teachers and two students could go with a banner.

Workers from a number of other unions were there too. The march to parliament had at least 17 trade union banners on it—including from the RMT, PCS, CWU, NUT, Unison, Unite and UCU.

Steve Hedley, London regional organiser of the RMT union, told students, “The trade union movement stands 100 percent behind you.”

Duty

A delegation of rail workers marched alongside students. Eddie Dempsey, an officer of the RMT’s Paddington No 1 branch, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been supporting the students from the start. Students supported us on our picket lines and we’ve been visiting their occupations.”

And a group of around 20 bus workers in the Unite union were there.

Trish Lavelle, national education officer for the CWU union, said, “It’s a duty for trade unionists to be here and make common cause with students fighting back.

“Our members are very buoyed up by the students—in six months the Tories have politicised a whole generation.”

Workers should pile pressure onto union officials to demand wholehearted support for the students—and defend them from politicians, the police and the media.


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