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‘The unions are a movement again… we can bring the tories down’

This article is over 12 years, 5 months old
From the Isle of Wight to the Shetland Islands, thousands of marchers took to the streets on Wednesday. The public sector strike and demonstrations gave an answer to those pundits who argued the unions were dead. Here is a selection of photographs and
Issue 2281
Thousands of workers marched through Glasgow on Wednesday (Pic: Duncan Brown)
Thousands of workers marched through Glasgow on Wednesday (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Some 50,000 strikers and supporters assembled for the London demonstration.

Alex Kenny, an NUT executive member, told Socialist Worker, “It’s gone very well today. The government is going to see how strongly people feel about this.

“We’ll start making plans for further action. Nothing’s ruled in or out. It’s not going to be just one day. There will be more action in the New Year.”

Many were taken aback by how much support they had received already. Ian Fall, a GMB union convenor at Lambeth council, told Socialist Worker, “One opinion poll said we had 61 percent support from the public—but I think it must be higher.

“No public sector worker agrees with what the government is doing. All our friends and family support us too.”

Activists from UK Uncut had a great reception as they handed out cups of “solidari-tea”.

Michael Sweetman is a student who came to support the demonstration. “We should support everyone striking today, like the sparks whose demo is taking place.” he told Socialist Worker. “It’s all the same fight.”

Raj Ranvhaha is a member of the Society of Radiographers at Barts hospital. “You feel bad telling patients you’re going on strike—but they have been very supportive,” she said.

Charlotte Monro, a Unison chair at Whipps Cross hospital, said, “Whole departments are coming out. In Unison, many of us are striking in shifts so everyone can take part and still maintain emergency cover.

“Everyone is angry. We need to organise with other unions like the RCN to make sure they come on board if we have to come out again.”

‘We need to step it up for the future’

500 marched in Aylesbury and packed into an overflowing rally. Over 700 marched in Barnsley—and speakers calling for escalation got a great response.

Some 10,000 marched in Brighton—in another protest that people said was the biggest they could ever remember—and 1,500 in Chester.

Radiographers and the Cambridge Labour Party brought their banners to a 2,000-strong march in the city. 500 rallied in Halifax, Kirklees.

Jan Holden from the UCU said, “We have done nothing wrong. Why should we pay for the crisis made by the bankers?”

Some 3,000 marched through Hull where students chanted, “David Cameron, we know you—we smashed up your HQ.”

In Leicester, more than 6,000 joined a demo. Mental health nurse James echoed many workers when he said he was “striking for future generations”.

In Lowestoft, where strikers shut all schools in the town, around 200 marched.

Four feeder marches brought together 3,000 protesters in Portsmouth. Police estimated some 3,000 marched in Truro.

Some 2,000 rallied in Wakefield, west Yorkshire, and 500 in Warwick.

More than 2,500 marched in Chesterfield.

Bev Bannister, a Unison member at a residential home, said, “We need to step it up for the future. What’s happening is frightening.”

Lancaster saw what people described as the biggest demo in its history.

Clive Scott, a Unison steward, said, “I’m encouraged by the new people joining the union. I feel optimistic—this is just the start.”

‘It was the largest demonstration in our city in living memory’

Huge numbers turned out to protest in towns and cities across Scotland. In Glasgow, some 25,000 marched through the city centre. Some 7,000 joined the strike rally in Aberdeen, 10,000 in Dundee and 15,000 in Edinburgh.

John, aged 19, was marching for the first time in Edinburgh. “This is about our future and other people’s present,” he said.

In Birmingham, 15,000 marched—even though the press told people there was no demo!

Jeff Brewster described Bristol’s march and rally as “astonishing” and “the largest demonstration in the city in living memory”.

More than 5,000 marched in Cardiff. Up to 10,000 joined a “monster” demo in Leeds, and Liverpool saw a “sea of purple flags” from Unison.

Unions less used to striking, such as Prospect and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, joined a march of up to 30,000 in Manchester.

Tom Haines-Doran reports, “As the tens of thousands of protesters filed past, it seemed to me that there is a sense that trade unions have become a movement again—with the power to bring the government to its knees.”

“Workers have not had a pay rise for six years,” one union rep said. “Now they’re telling us that it’ll be capped to 1 percent for another two years. It’s disgraceful.”

Up to 10,000 joined the march in Newcastle, including firefighters in uniform.

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