Some 250 people came to Bristol Council House on Monday of this week for a rally organised by Unite the Resistance and the Bristol And District Anti-Cuts Alliance (Badaca). Some 16 local union branches sponsored the rally.
Speakers included John McLoughlin from Unison’s local government executive, PCS vice president John McNally, Jean Taylor from Unite and the CWU’s Dave Wilshire, whose workplace is facing 350 compulsory redundancies.
Nina Franklin, national president of the NUT, underlined the need to continue the fight. “What is one day’s wages for a strike when in April we will lose one day in every month with these changes?” she asked.
The biggest cheer of the evening went to Unilever striker Jim Griffiths who came to offer his support to public sector workers. Jim said that private sector workers such as those at Unilever were also willing to fight over pensions.
“I want to be able to look in the mirror in 20 years time and say that I did something,” he said. “Will the people that crossed picket lines be able to say the same?”
Activists discussed the next steps for the pensions struggle and wider fight against cuts after last year’s 30 November strike.
There was anger and determination to fight back against the government’s austerity agenda. But there was also frustration at the delays in calling further strikes.
NUT activist Paul Vernell noted that teachers, lecturers and civil service workers struck on 30 June last year despite not having Unison or GMB on board.
The unions that took action on that day were able to bring others on board for 30 November by naming a date and taking action, he added.
Unison health activist Huw Williams pointed to how trade unionists had fought on a local level in Tower Hamlets, Camden, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Southampton and elsewhere.
He added that Unison members who weren’t striking should respect the workplace picket lines set up by unions that are.
The size and mood of the Bristol meeting was a sign of the health of grassroots resistance. The fight against Tory cuts in the city is alive and kicking—and the organised working class is at the heart of it.
All speakers were in a personal capacity. Unite the Resistance comes to Manchester next, Wednesday 29 February at 7pm. For more information go to uniteresist.org