WORKERS, trade unionists and youth on the more than 300,000-strong march from the BBC Broadcasting House to Parliament Square on Saturday demanded that the TUC be made to call a General Strike to bring the Tories down now.
Over and over again in the past few months they have praised the emergency services, and yet they have just voted again to deny them a pay rise and to continue with the cuts to the services. Never has so much been taken from so many for the benefit of so few.’
Addressing the march outside the BBC before it set off, 22-year-old Shen, from the Bakers Union, said: ‘I’m a McDonald’s worker and I and my workmates have decided to form a union. There are many hardships fast food workers face – pay, harassment, bullying from management, and no regular hours.
‘So many fast food workers are suffering, we are told we are unskilled, lazy, stupid, impossible to organise. But many of our brothers and sisters around the world are organising, in the US, New Zealand, in Denmark they are striking.
‘Hundreds of thousands of fast food workers are paid poverty pay, unable to afford to buy the food they sell. Fast food workers need to rise up from our slumber, organise. If you are a fast food worker join us. Join the Bakers Union.’
After his speech, Ian Hodson, President of the Bakers Union, told News Line: ‘We’ve been working to organise across the fast food industry. We recognise it’s a huge task, but we know when people hear the message they see the need to organise and they join.
‘We call on all fast food workers to contact us now. We are fighting for a £10 minimum wage now, end the youth minimum wage, and the abolition of zero hours contracts.’
Other speakers addressed the march. Moira Samuels, Justice for Grenfell, said: ‘I’m a local teacher and live close by Grenfell. We watched and heard the screams of family and friends. There are many levels of trauma.
‘Our local rotten Tory council were absent. They abandoned us. Their decision to cut costs led to the fire. This council must face jail. They close our nurseries, they sell our libraries and they kill us in our homes.
‘Rise up and continue to rise. Tories out and justice for Grenfell!’
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: ‘We will not rest until there is justice for the people of Grenfell, we will not rest until we lift the public sector pay cap and we will not stand for the demonisation of trade unionists.’
Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis said: ‘We will organise and mobilise to achieve the change we want. Let’s march today. Let’s rise up and sweep the Tories out.’
FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘We send a message to this government and its policies – austerity, pay freeze – you’ve got no mandate, clear off, get out the way.
‘What happened at Grenfell is a horror still unfolding. But what’s behind it is what we’ve seen for a generation – the undermining of public safety, privatisation, specialist fire safety officers cut by two-thirds since 2004.
‘The previous PM described health and safety as a monster that needs to be killed. Well, there are over 80 killed. Grenfell was not an act of God. Many people need to be held to account, right to the top.’
During the march, Liane Caine, from Luton, told News Line: ‘I’m here to fight for justice for Grenfell. It’s disgusting they had no sprinklers, no fire safety in that building, no proper fire escape. And the cladding was only put up for the rich people and how it looked to them. The blame lies at the top with the Tory government. There needs to be an inquest, not a public inquiry with a judge appointed by the Tories.’
Her friend, Stephanie Smith said: ‘What brought me here was hearing that someone had to throw her baby out of the window to try to save it. I’m a mother and know how it must have felt. The Tories are to blame.’
Cathy Beresford, RCN member from Slough, said: ‘I’ve been a nurse for 19 years and I’ve got three children. I need to make my contribution for protecting the future, protecting public services. I’m totally against the pay cap and fees for student nurses, there’s not enough nurses.
‘We have to protect what we’ve got. We are so lucky to have an NHS and the Tories are destroying it. I want the RCN to call a strike and I think the TUC should call a General Strike.’
In Parliament Square at the end of the march, Captain Ska received rapturous applause when they performed their hit song about Theresa May, ‘Liar, Liar’, which reached No 1 in the charts last month.
One of the first speakers in Parliament Square was TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, who expressed surprise at recent political developments, made a tame joke about May now knowing what it’s like to be on a zero hours contract, and then asked, as if it’s nothing to do with the TUC: ‘Who knows what’s going to happen next?’ She concluded by saying: ‘We want a public sector pay rise. Scrap the pay cap and scrap it now.’
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, the largest union in the country, made a long speech during which he proposed no action against the Tories. He concluded by appealing to them: ‘Let Labour take over. Prime Minister, go and go now.’
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘With a million and a quarter people turning up at food banks, I make this pledge – when we bring this government down we will put an end to hunger. When we come to power we will build a million homes, half a million of them council homes. When we get rid of May and the Tories we will end the privatisation of our NHS, we will fund the health service, we’ll end the pay cap, we’ll restore trade union rights, we will scrap work capability assessments.
‘We need to bring an end to this government at the first opportunity. Over there,’ McDonnell said, pointing to Parliament, ‘we’ll use every device we can to bring them down. But there’s work to be done outside parliament. We’ve had over 100,000 on the streets today. In every community we want people and the trade unions to stand up and say enough is enough.
‘Not just a Labour government, but a socialist government under Jeremy Corbyn. Another world is in sight. Let’s seize the moment comrades.’
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘We need more demonstrations, more marches. Why don’t we have a public sector strike of all public sector workers to break the cap? We all deserve a pay rise.’
The final speaker was Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. He said: ‘I’m proud of the manifesto we put forward in the election. The vote we received was the biggest increase for Labour since 1945. We are determined to force another election as soon as we can.
‘There are six million people on less than the Living Wage, four million children living in poverty. The Tories, with the support of the DUP, voted down a Labour proposal that we end the public sector pay cap.
‘There is growing underfunding of health, education and all public services. If ever there was an object lesson in what austerity means look at Grenfell, a towering inferno where the poor died in the richest borough in Britain.
‘The election campaign showed something else, there’s a real desire to build a society that wants to be at ease with itself and invest in public services. We will invest in arts, culture and young people. Public money will be spent in all parts of the country.
‘Tax the corporates so that we can educate the young. No more the bonfire of regulations. We’ll repeal the Trade Union Act and end the grotesque inequalities of modern Britain. We’ll end austerity, invest in the future and invest in decent housing.
‘The social care crisis is a crisis made by this government. The only magic money tree is the one that allows the corporations not to pay the tax they should be paying. Those who came back from the Second World War built the NHS. I want an NHS publicly owned, publicly run and those employed in it publicly employed. The Tories are in retreat, we are moving forward. This is the age that we will build the better society for our children and all those that come after us.’