|The News Line: News
Monday, 22 October 2012
500,000 MARCH FOR ACTION TO BRING DOWN THE COALITION!
500,000 angry workers, trade unionists and youth marched in London, Glasgow and Belfast against the Tory-LibDem Coalition government and its cuts and privatisation programme on Saturday.
|Masses assembling on the Embankment before setting off on Saturday
There were hundreds of thousands on the London demonstration, with flags banners and massive baloons, including one from the NUT saying ‘Education Cuts Never Heal’ and Fair Pensions for All’.
There were large delegations from the PCS civil and public servants union and all the education, health and transport unions.
There were two brass bands with the Unite and GMB delegations and scores of Unison banners from all over the country, including HealthCare Sussex, West Yorkshire, Bromley, Dudley, Northern Region, Oxfordshire, West Midlands, South West London Mental Health, Isle of Wight, Hounslow and Hampshire.
A loud and lively delegation marched behind the Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists’ Forward to a Workers Government banner, chanting: ‘Defend our Hospitals – Occupy Now! TUC Get Off Your Knees – Call a General Strike! No Cuts No Closures – Kick this Government Out!
As the march assembled and proceeded, many of the marchers spoke to News Line.
Gail Bignell, from Plymouth Unison Health said: ‘Our problem is mental health. They’re cutting us, slashing everything.
‘They’ve sold us out now to a private company. Our patients, long-term mental health patients, are being harmed. Some of them have only ever known NHS wards, now they are farmed out to the private sector. It’s terrible.
‘I absolutely, totally think there should be a general strike tomorrow. Somebody’s got to stop this government. Something’s got to happen. It’s criminal.’
Sharon Agnew, Wealden Branch Unison Sussex Local Government, said: ‘I’m being made redundant in December due to the cuts. I’m really upset and angry.
‘They’re cutting posts, outsourcing, privatising. The service-users are the ones that are really suffering. We need a general strike now.’
Gavin Mott, Secretary Hounslow Unison Local Government branch said: ‘We’re looking at £60 million cuts over four years, it’s horrific.
‘We’ve already seen plenty of redundancies and now the start of a programme of privatisation and so-called “joint working arrangements” with other authorities, which is just another exercise to lose jobs.
‘There is going to be a major campaign against the cuts in Hounslow very shortly.’
James McKay said: ‘I’m here with the GMB and I’m joining the union today.
‘I’m a graphic designer and I think we’re going to have to stop the privatisation of the NHS.
‘There is still power in the unions. There’s too much apathy and too much cynicism. Working in design you can see the manipulation of the press and the manipulation of public perception.
‘I think there should be a general strike. Talk only does so much. You have to be militant and bring things to a halt.’
Mary Bainbridge, Workington GMB, Secretary of Cumbria GMB Engineering Branch, Labour Councillor for Workington and Allerdale Borough Council, said: ‘We’ve got lots of people who the cuts are affecting. They are hurting the most vulnerable people who are unable to fight for themselves.
‘That’s why we have to lead this fight. I also run the unemployed centre in Workington.
‘The Conservatives are bringing this country to its knees and we have to do something about it.
‘There are plenty of calls for a general strike now and it looks like it might happen.
‘We’ve got more people coming to our doors asking for support every single day. It can’t get any better, there are still more cuts to come.’
Jo Booty, Ealing Unison, said: ‘The unions should make more of an effort to inform people of what’s going on. Most people didn’t know about today’s march.
‘The cuts in Ealing and west London are harsh and will have frightening consequences.
‘I’m a social worker and I believe in people having the power to make decisions based on the facts. Everything I do is based on what I believe in.’
Katy Smith, RCN Portsmouth, said: ‘There are ward closures at Petersfield Community Hospital, meaning dementia patients have to travel for over 30 miles now.
‘The NHS is being destroyed by this government. It’s got to be kicked out.’
Katy’s husband, Thomas Smith, GMB paramedic South East Coast Ambulance, said: ‘Some stations are just not covered. Some shifts I cover four counties!
‘Making us work to 68 is just outrageous. The TUC should organise a general strike to bring down the government before it’s too late.
‘The services will go and we’ll never get them back. People don’t realise what they’ve got till its gone.’
Sue Kennedy and Sally Howard, Devon NUT members and secondary school teachers at Holsworthy school, said: ‘They are trying to introduce a Free School very close to our school. It’s called the Route 39 Free School. It will obviously take pupils away.
‘They’re making all sorts of promises to parents. But when you question them about it they can’t back anything up.
‘Free Schools and Academies are being brought in to create a two-tier system. Equality of opportunity for pupils flies out of the window.
‘They’re able to change selection policy, they can employ non-qualified staff and not abide by national pay and conditions.’
Kapu Patel, Leicester local government Unite, said: ‘The cuts are very bad in Leicester, they’re privatising everything.’
Jim Nugent, RMT Croydon, said: ‘Privatisation is a disaster. You pay more for less. All the dosh goes to the capitalists and we work harder for less money. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse.’
Louise Holden, Unite South East London, said: ‘This government doesn’t care how much misery they are causing.
‘I’m 41 and for the first time in my life I’m scared for my future and my son’s future.
‘I work for a disability charity. There are people with disabilities going without food. There are people with severe disabilities having their benefits cut.
‘Especially people with learning and mental health disabilities are suffering.
‘I don’t think the general population is aware of it. All funding for legal aid is being cut. It’s genocide.’
Jim Tolton, Leicester Unite, said: ‘There’s creeping privatisation of the public services.
‘A general strike is a step towards the answer, which is public ownership.’
At the end of the march, sisters Sade and Lora said: ‘We’re very angry at what they are doing to the disabled. They are cutting their money. They are worse than Thatcher. They are closing services people need.
‘Also we’re very upset at what they are doing to the NHS. We should all strike together and kick them out.’
At the rally in Hyde Park, TUC president Lesley Mercer declared: ‘We want a future that works not just for a few but for everyone.
‘A future that writes off youth and the NHS is unacceptable.
‘The NHS is struggling but keep faith with the NHS.
‘Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t afford a decent NHS, free at the point of need.
‘Support the NHS in any way you can. It belongs to the people – and that’s the way it needs to stay, not broken up into pieces as a business opportunity.’
NUS vice president Toni Pearce attacked the scrapping of EMA and £9,000 tuition fees.
She warned: ‘Graduates walk straight into the dole queue.
‘And adults now have to pay tuition fees.
‘This is not what we want our lives to be.
‘There is an alternative – investment in jobs and fair pay.’
She added: ‘Students will be marching again on 21st November and we hope many of you will join them.'
Sue Marsh, the author of the Diary of a Benefit Scrounger blog, and co-author of a report on the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance, said: ‘You all believe in justice.
‘But injustice and exploitation are closing in on us.
‘This parliament of fools use numbers lightly.
‘But there’s a million who will be reassessed by French IT company Atos as fit for work.
‘Coroners are reporting this form of terror is a cause of death. Doctors are demanding no cooperation.
‘Hundreds of thousands of disabled children will see their benefit cut while Cameron and his Bullingdon Club friends get millions in tax relief.’
She urged: ‘We are so under threat. Please be outraged because sick and disabled people in the UK need you like never before.’
NUT general secretary Christine Blower told the crowd: ‘We salute the teacher trade unionists from Greece here today.
‘We march with them in solidarity, with them, with workers everywhere suffering under austerity.
‘Let’s march together on November 14 on the European Day of Action.
‘We need to oppose welfare cuts, education cuts, all cuts.
‘We must move forward from today determined to take more action in unity.
‘We need to do more and continue to do it until we win.
‘Yes, when the time is right we need to strike together to oppose all welfare cuts and privatisation.’
CWU president Beryl Shepherd said: ‘People do not have money to spend.
‘If we are not spending, business is not investing.
‘We need money in our pockets, real investment in infrastructure.
‘Austerity isn’t working, money must be invested.’
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband told the crowd: ‘I’m here to join with people from all walks of life from all parts of the country.
‘We stand for all young people in this country who want work and can’t find it.
‘We stand with nurses and the NHS, with contruction workers who want a job, with workers who want a better life, with police who stand to protect their communities.
‘The want a Britain that works for all, one nation, private and public sector working together.
‘This government is dividing the country.
‘This government has one rule for those at the top and one rule for everyone else.
‘The government think they are born to rule but they’re not very good at it.
‘What an incompetent shower are this prime minister and government.
‘Cameron tried to keep his chief whip when the rest of us said he should go.
‘It is a weak and divided prime minster and government governing this country,’ he said to cries of ‘show what you are going to do Ed’ and ‘general strike’.
Miliband replied: ‘Not sink or swim but one nation, that’s what Labour will do.
‘There will still be hard choices, there will be some cuts,’ he continued to boos.
He repeated that cuts would be ‘fair’ to more boos.
He continued: ‘Austerity is not working, we need different but fair policies.
‘Britain working for us, one nation, that gives hope for your poor, defends the NHS.’
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis began his speech: ‘We welcome our brothers and sisters in South Africa and the CGT in France.
‘Their battle is our battle against austerity in Europe.
‘Here, people are suffering – 600,000 jobs have gone in this parliament.
‘Inequality not seen since Victorian times.
‘Families trapped in a downward spiral of debt, public services sold off.
‘A coalition with no road to recovery.
‘Cameron and Clegg are using the recession to destroy our public services.
‘Cameron wants to spread privilege to his millionaire friends.
‘We’re here to stand up for the millions old and young.
‘This is a coalition with no democratic mandate to cut public services.
‘There is an alternative, tell Cameron “go back to the bankers and spivs, tell them you created this mess you sort it out”.
‘Today we say no more austerity, today we march, tomorrow we march on to get this coalition to act decently towards it own people.
‘Unison did vote for the motion calling on the TUC to consider the implications of a general strike.
‘If we stand together, if we raise our heads together we will win!’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey declared: ‘We’re marching for our future, for a Britain of full employment and social justice.
‘We want money spent properly for our elderly and sick.
‘A future for jobs and growth, that puts people before profits.
‘We’re marching against this millionaires’ government, wasting money while putting millions into poverty and trying to destroy the NHS.
‘Save the Children for the first time are having to help our kids.
‘They’re handing out food parcels in one of the richest countries in the world.
‘When the cuts come in next April it will be worse.
‘We represent the 99 per cent who want an alternative.’
He called for ‘an end to rich tax dodgers, a £1 increase in the minimum wage and growth.
He added: ‘We won’t get what we want simply by asking.
‘Last month at the TUC a motion was passed calling for the TUC to consult on a general strike.
‘Well let’s start that consultation today.
‘Are you prepared to strike?
Thousands of shouts of ‘Yes!’
‘Are you prepared for a general strike? Let’s have a show of hands.’
Shouts of Yes! Yes! and thousands raised their hands.
‘Then that’s carried,’ McCluskey said, concluding: ‘We have to fight, fight for a future that works.’
TUC general secretary-elect Frances O’Grady said: ‘Thank you for standing up.
‘Our message to the government is stop austerity.
‘Cameron said he wants to spread privilege, well I know what that comprises of and it doesn’t smell good.
‘Osborne don’t you dare tell us that unemployment is the fault of young people – get on your bike.
‘I promise that when I takeup my post as general secretary next year I will fight for our people.
‘There is a better way, fair taxes, decent jobs.
‘United we will win.’
RMT general secretary Bob Crow declared: ‘There is one thing you should do about violence at work, stop the government doing violence against every worker.
‘These people are cutting pay, not giving jobs.
‘We’ve got thousands of builders out of work and a shortage of affordable housing, we should invest and give them jobs.
‘We don’t want Miliband to say he’s with us, we want him to say he’s on our side.
‘We’re marching today. It’s about time that the million taking part in marches here and in Glasgow and Belfast, it’s about time we are all marching together and have a 24-hour general strike!’
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka opened his speech saying: ‘Last week, Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude walked into Coventry tax office.
‘When he walked in, our members walked out.
‘Hundreds of thousand of them have taken strike action time and time again.
‘We should tax the rich, put people back to work and put money back into the economy.
‘We’ve had two marches in 18 months and the government have shown they are not prepared to change course.
‘We are in a worse place today.
‘If we’re going to stop the cuts, what we have to do is what they do in France and what they did in Greece a few days ago.
‘We need to have strike action right across the economy.
‘It’s not enough to hope, we have to make it happen.
‘Go back to your areas and tell our leaders the time has come to strike and when we strike together we can win!’
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: ‘This government is creating a system of inequalty.
‘Every day misery and inequality deepens.
‘In 13 months, this government has plunged 40,000 more children into poverty.
‘It’s cut teachers and support staff jobs.
‘It’s brought in military academies, which are national service for the poor.
‘This government stifles the aspirations of working class young people.
‘We stand against elitist and repressive polices by a government of millionaires with contempt for ordinary people.’
‘We are so under threat. Please be outraged because sick and disabled people in the UK need you like never before.’
War on Want joined trade unions, community groups and people from across Britain to march against austerity and the unprecedented attack on the welfare state.
War on Want’s Bangladeshi partner organisation, the National Garment Workers’ Federation, held a rally on Saturday in Dhaka to express its solidarity with UK workers.
And support for the demonstration in Britain was sent from other War on Want partners overseas – CODEMUH, the Honduran Women’s Collective, NUPAAW, the National Union of Plantation, Agriculture and Allied Workers in Zambia, and SACOM, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, in Hong Kong.
Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: ‘Workers and communities around the globe are paying a terrible price for a crisis they did not cause.
‘The government is continuing with a failed economic policy, which is there to serve bankers in the City of London and tax-dodging corporations, rather than ordinary people. The poorest and most marginalised are being punished, while big companies are able to make billions in profit and pay peanuts in tax.’
Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation, said: ‘The federation has been fighting for the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh since 1984. We stand with workers in the UK in your fight against the cuts that your government has imposed.
‘We know the programme of cuts will make thousands of you poorer as a result, and as workers we stand united against poverty, wherever it is found.’
Parliamentarians and senior trade union representatives from Greece, Portugal, Spain, France and Germany also went on the march to express their solidarity against cuts and austerity measures in Britain.
The delegation included Stefanos Samoilis MP from SYRIZA in Greece which shot to prominence in recent elections, under the leadership of Alexis Tspiras; Marisa Mathias MEP from Bloco de Esquerda, in the leadership of the recent massive demonstrations in Portugal; Florian Wilde from Die Linke, Germany’s left party; Elisabeth Gauthier from the French Communist Party, prominent in the Front de Gauche; Giorgos Charisis from the ADEDY trade union federation of Greece; Haralambos Kokkinos, Vice-president of the DOE primary education trade union of Greece; Dimitris Gkinis of the OLME secondary education trade union of Greece; Annick Coupe, leader of the Solidaire trade union of France, and many others.
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