Glasgow’s George Square saw an immense display of working class solidarity last night, Thursday, as around 2,500 trade union activists joined a protest in support of the city’s long-running homelessness caseworkers’ strike.
The vast majority of the protesters were delegates to the Unison union’s national conference taking place in Glasgow. They voted to end yesterday’s conference session early, then marched and chanted through the streets to a rally in the square.
The homelessness workers, who work for Labour-run Glasgow City Council, called the protest to build support for their strike, which is now in its twelfth week. They are also demanding the reinstatement of Robert O’Donnell, a Unison rep sacked by bosses at SECC– the venue Unison leaders chose for its conference.
“This is what trade union activism is all about,” Doncaster Care UK rep Roger Hutt told a short rally of union activists assembling for a march to the square. He added, “All for one and one for all.”
Eve Rennie, from Gloucestershire Health and Community branch, told Socialist Worker, “We are showing that Unison members throughout Britain stand with the Glasgow caseworkers and Robert O’Donnell.”
The city council is now under huge pressure to resolve the two disputes. Caseworkers have been on all-out strike since 31 March demanding they are paid equal to other council staff with similar responsibilities.
Unison says it believes Robert’s sacking relates to his role as a trade union activist. SECC is 91 percent owned by the council yet, disgracefully, it refuses to recognise trade unions.
Many Unison members have questioned why their union was holding its conference in the venue in the first place. Eve said she was “pissed off we didn’t know about this beforehand”. Chants of “Glasgow council, shame on you” rang out through the square.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told the crowd outside the council’s headquarters, “We cannot condone bad union practise”. He threatened to take the conference centre off Unison’s approved venues list and encourage other unions to do the same.
It’s questionable whether SECC should have ever been on any union’s approved list.
Prentis also told striking caseworkers, “All the resources of our union will be with you” and that, “We need more people taking a stand like this”.
Alex Nightingale is a Unison member at Kings College in London. She told Socialist Worker the homelessness caseworkers “were a total inspiration and it’s great to be able to support them like this”. She added, “Glasgow council should invest in its workers and local services.”
Striker Mary Docherty told Socialist Worker she was “absolutely gobsmacked” at the turnout on the demonstration. “We’ll take great strength from this to keep up our fight against austerity.
“I think we should all be out striking together nationally and tell our politicians ‘you mess with one of us, you mess with us all’.”
The caseworkers have received a massive boost to continue their fight but they have also inspired workers across Britain.
“When people come to Glasgow they often get a wee dram of whisky but what they need to do is bottle the spirit of this strike,” Tower Hamlets branch secretary John McLoughlin told Socialist Worker.
“Let’s take it back and build the fight nationally to take on this rotten Tory government.”