By Sarah Ensor
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Thousands get ready to join the TUC march

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Health workers tell Sarah Ensor why they are joining the TUC protest for the NHS at the Tory Party conference in Manchester on Sunday 29 September
Issue 2367
Marching on the Tories in Manchester in 2011

Marching on the Tories in Manchester in 2011 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Thousands of trade unionists and activists from around Britain are mobilising to march on the Tory Party conference in Manchester on Sunday 29 September.

The demonstration called by the Unite, Unison and GMB unions to defend the NHS now has the backing of the whole TUC. 

It is an opportunity to bring together opposition to the government on all kinds of issues.

NHS admin worker Dan Fearnley has been visiting NHS workplaces in Oxfordshire with his Unison colleagues to talk to workers about the march.

 “We’ve got to fight for the NHS or it won’t last much longer,” he told Socialist Worker. 

Dan is originally from the US. He added, “I’m terrified of that coming here.”

“People have to drive to the next town because there’s a free clinic on a Wednesday, or give doctors a false name because they know they can’t ever pay the bill. 

“Cancer patients know that even if they die it won’t be over—their family will lose the house because of the bills.”


US health care giants are among the companies buying up contracts in the NHS. Workers like Dan see the impact of privatisation and cuts up close.

“I’m shocked at how bad it has already got,” he said. “Services that are not seen as a priority have already been privatised. All the prison health care in Oxfordshire has gone to Virgin.”

Oxfordshire Unison Health branch has voted for £3,000 for publicity and transport for the march. 

Ian McKendrick, the branch’s communications officer, said “We have filled one coach and organised 15,000 leaflets. We have enough money now for five coaches. We are taking all members free and everyone else at £5.”

Activists have gone to local events, including the Mind and Restart charities’ Elder Stubbs festival to build the demonstration.

The local People’s Assembly has also arranged a coach and Unite union at BMW is putting on a coach for their stewards.

The Unite union has booked a train from London, and there are dozens more coaches booked from around Britain.

Charlene Sibley is a GMB union rep working in domestic services at Derriford 

Hospital in Plymouth, south Devon. She is going to the march with the Plymouth TUC coach.

“I’m angry about the austerity that they expect us to swallow and the demonisation of people on benefits,” Charlene told Socialist Worker.

Charlene, like millions of workers, has struggled with low pay and rising prices.

She said, “We only got a 1 percent pay increase, and then there’s inflation and they’re finding new ways to tax people. 

“I’m a full time worker with a council house but even I’m in debt. The unions should refuse to accept this pay freeze— we need some large scale action.”


Sister Christine Frost is a nun who has worked for 40 years in Poplar, east London. 

She has been providing care at a home for vulnerable and elderly people, and is going to Manchester with Tower Hamlets Keep Our NHS Public

“I’m most concerned with the lack of care of the elderly,” she said. 

“Elderly people do not want to go to hospital, they have to wait for bedpans or food there or come out with infections. But care in the community has to be resourced.”

The demonstration will be a chance for ordinary people to make their voices heard.

“From my window I can see Canary Wharf on the one hand, and lads on the High Street with no jobs and no idea of where they will end up on the other,” added Sister Christine.

“The government is judging people like me as feckless. But we won’t let ourselves be beaten by these people.”

For transport details to Manchester see

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