STRIKING RAIL workers on Arriva Trains Northern led an 800-strong march in Newcastle on Saturday called by the Public Sector Alliance. Other delegations included firefighters, postal workers (with a significant delegation from Oxfordshire), GMB and Unison union members, further education college lecturers, university lecturers, anti-war activists and others.
Each group of demonstrators raised similar concerns about the threatened war on Iraq, privatisation and pay. There was a chorus of calls for the unions to coordinate their action in a push against the government's core policies. That was the tone of the rally at the end, addressed, among others, by four union general secretaries - Paul Mackney (Natfhe), Derek Simpson (Amicus), John Edmonds (GMB) and Billy Hayes (CWU).
Paul Mackney told the rally, 'My union has taken a clear position against war on Iraq. If there is money for war there is money for colleges, universities, hospitals, schools and better pay for public sector workers. 'If we are to spend it internationally then it could go to rebuilding Palestine, dealing with the AIDS epidemic and tackling world hunger.'
Alex Gordon, an executive member of the RMT union, said the union had been inundated with calls from members about the safety implications of a firefighters' strike.
He told the rally, 'We are telling our members they have the right not to work in unsafe conditions. And we will ballot for strike action in defence of anyone who is victimised for standing up for that right.' Kenny Bell, a Unison union branch secretary in Newcastle and an organiser of the event, told Socialist Worker, 'This is the beginning of something.
'We have to build on the unity shown today. It also shows what is possible, including to my own national union, which said it could not organise a march against privatisation because there would be little support for it.'