Socialist Worker

Strikers lead anti-Tory march in Birmingham

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2624

Striking care workers at the front of the march

Striking care workers at the front of the march (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Chants of “Tory scum, get out of Brum” rang out in Birmingham on Saturday as over 1,200 people joined a march ahead of the Tory party conference.

Organised by Midlands TUC union federation and the People's Assembly, the demonstration brought together trade unionists and campaigners from across the region.

People were angry that workers are still suffering austerity ten years after the bank bailouts—and hoped that Labour will be able to end it.

Bernie, a nursing student from Birmingham, came to protest about Tory attacks on education and the NHS. “I'm for Labour—I want the Tories out,” she told Socialist Worker.

“The Tories have topped up our fees and got rid of the bursary for health care students.

“You have to work four 12-hour shifts in the hospital for free and go in to university. You've no time to find work and you're left with no money.

“With Labour, it’s going to be better for students.”

Struggling

Sayed, a teacher from nearby Walsall, agreed. “We're fed up with the Conservatives and their cuts,” he told Socialist Worker. “People are really struggling.

“My wages are the same, but everything else is up and the bankers still have their bonuses.

“Jeremy Corbyn is the man.”

The Tories begin their conference on Sunday riven by deep divisions and leadership in-fighting over Brexit.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has launched another attack on Theresa May by publishing his own Brexit plan as an alternative to her “Chequers deal”.

Labour MP Liam Byrne told the rally the Tories were “no longer a political party but a three-ring circus”.

“We need to have a general election and a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.

A message of support was read out from Corbyn, who was holding public meetings in the nearby towns of Halesowen and Redditch.

Protesters agreed that there should be a general election to boot out the Tories—but many couldn't see a way of forcing them to call one before 2022.

Weaknesses

Phil, a Unite Community and Labour Party member from Nottingham, told Socialist Worker, “The Tories are a complete mess and we've got to find ways of exploiting those weaknesses.

“The Labour Party talks about the grassroots movement and I think it's going to be up to us.”

A lively bloc of Birmingham home care workers led the demonstration through the city centre. Mandy, a Unison union rep, said, “We're here to stay, and we're here to strike no matter what.

“We have to up our action, we've got more plans and we are going strong.”

The Unison members are fighting the Labour-run council’s plan to slash £2 million from their service and open it further to the private sector.

Labour's national leadership hasn't intervened to force the council to back off.

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The biggest cheers went to the home care workers and speakers who mentioned strikes.

Mick Cash, RMT union general secretary, promised to call strikes against a pay cap for rail workers.

And NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said there would be “significant industrial action” unless the Tories stumped up the money to fund pay rises for teachers by the time of the budget in the autumn.

He also called for support for Stand Up To Racism’s (SUTR) initiatives.

Naima Omar from SUTR pointed to the threat of the far right and urged everyone to come on to the streets on 13 October and 17 November.

The Tories will try desperately to cling on to office. And every day they stay sees more attacks on working class people and the further implementation of racist policies.

It will take a much more determined fight to boot them out and end their whole regime of austerity and racism.


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