THE SIZE of the 500,000-strong anti-war demonstration in London last Saturday astounded everyone. It was the high point after two days of unprecedented protest across Britain. As well as the brilliant, much publicised demonstrations of school students, there were significant walkouts of workers last Thursday. Workers often defied their bosses to protest against the war.
In many towns and cities school teachers and university lecturers walked out and joined their students in protests. Members of the PCS civil servants' union said it was the biggest day of unofficial action in their union for years. In Manchester PCS around 50 members from the Equal Opportunities Commission joined a lunchtime rally.
In London there were stoppages at several government offices, including John Prescott's office. Some 40 PCS members at the Department of Work and Pensions in Tavistock Square also walked out. 'We had to do something,' said worker Modge West. 'We couldn't just carry on as normal. After all, people in Iraq can't do that.'
In Liverpool PCS members from several civil servants' offices and benefits agencies round the city stopped work, sometimes for hours. Down the road at Vauxhall car plant a shop steward with a megaphone addressed a factory gate meeting. A similar meeting was held at the AC Delco factory.
Members of the train drivers' Aslef union walked out with union flags and homemade placards. Workers at Bowden's Carpets in Liverpool city centre stopped worked and protested chanting, 'We want to floor Bush's war'. In Sheffield, probation workers marched from their office to join the dinner time protest. Council workers and workers from Blades Enterprise Centre walked out for an hour.
Postal workers staged protests at Copperas Hill office in Liverpool and Aston sorting office in Birmingham. In London there were some walkouts of tube workers. Others found imaginative ways to protest.
One tube worker told Socialist Worker, 'We have got lots of people wearing badges at work and a couple of people came with me to the demo in Parliament Square. I used the customer service PA system on the tubes to let people know about the protests at parliament. When I did, I heard cheering in the tube. I even announced that Robin Cook had resigned over the PA.'
Striking staff from the Labour Research Department in London demonstrated on the Millennium Bridge with workers from the Health and Safety Executive, War on Want, the Financial Times, Daily Express and other local workplaces. Health workers held lunchtime rallies outside several hospitals, including in London, Birmingham and Sheffield.