50,000 March For Jobs And Justice

Angry Remploy workers with their banners were part of a large GMB contingent on Saturday’s demonstration
Angry Remploy workers with their banners were part of a large GMB contingent on Saturday’s demonstration

THE TUC-organised ‘Put People First’ march over jobs, justice and climate attracted up to 50,000 workers and young people in central London on Saturday.

Trade unionists from other countries also joined the march with large delegations from France and Belgium where a delegation of over 100 attended.

News Line spoke to marchers assembling on London’s embankment before marching to Hyde Park.

Bethany Mae-Phillips, who had travelled from Wiltshire for the march, told News Line: ‘I’m young and my future looks bleak because of corporate greed.

‘We need to do something about it – stand up and be counted.

‘I am starting university in September so if tuition fees are increased I will be expected to be paying off debts until I’m 70.’

A friend, Arienette Phillips-Ashman, said: ‘I think we’re entering a dangerous time so if we don’t do something now, there is no hope for our kids in the future.

‘No one seems to have any fight any more, so it is time for us to take a stand for what we believe in.’

A young worker, Mark Kelly, who has been unemployed for six months, said: ‘I’m here to secure jobs and peace for the future and don’t want the big nations to act as the world’s overlords. They are just making things worse.’

Gawain Williams said: ‘The government has spent £345 billion of taxpayers’ money in propping up capitalism while we are having redundancies, house repossessions and dole lines.

‘We have to unite against this and show there is an alternative system based on co-operation.’

Stephen Spence, assistant general secretary of Equity, was with a delegation from the union.

He told News Line: ‘The issues of jobs, justice and climate change are important to us all.

‘Work is difficult for our members at the best of times, so in tough economic times we want to show our support and solidarity with other unions and ask the G20 for a better deal for ordinary people.’

Angela Sullivan, a GMB member from Milton Keynes, said: ‘We have got to send a message that people want a more just world.

‘I am against privatisation and the way the banking system works and am disgusted in the government’s involvement in rendition.

‘A large number of Remploy workers angry at the government’s closure of their factories were on the march.’

Julie Haynes, a Remploy shop steward from Barking, said: ‘We’re marching to stop this government closing down our factories because there is a real need for them and even more so in the current climate.

‘Disabled people need protected employment, yet a third of the Remploy factories have been closed.’

Ray Ludford was a shop steward at the Brixton Remploy factory before it was closed down over a year ago – he has not been able to work since.

‘Remploy’s plan, endorsed by the government, is to close all the factories,’ said Ray.

‘Remploy will still exist, but it will exist as an employment agency aimed at disabled people.

‘The problem is employers don’t want to take on disabled people.

‘It is a disgrace what this government is doing to disabled people who really struggle to get to work and that is now being taken away from us.’

A delegation of over 100 from the Belgian Federation of General Workers (FGTB) travelled over for the march.

News Line spoke to Stephen Galon, secretary of the construction section of the union.

‘We are here to express our solidarity with your movement and we are convinced that other principles than money and benefits can conduct an international system.

‘We hope the G20 leaders will listen, but I don’t think so.

‘So we will continue our struggle.

‘We are taking strike action throughout Belgium on Thursday over the failure of our pay talks.’

Regional secretary of the FGTB union in Namur, Belgium, Guy Fays, told News Line: ‘Many people are losing their jobs because this system is out of breath.

‘If we don’t take this opportunity to change things now the crisis will get worse.

‘It is far worse than the 1930s and it will lead to revolution.’

The general secretary of the GMB, Paul Kenny, led a large delegation of his members on the march.

‘This is the first time we have taken to the streets over an economic crisis issue since Labour was elected and I doubt it will be the last,’ he said.

‘If the government refuse to listen then we will have to shout louder.’

Terence Dawe, a builder, travelled from Dorset to be on the march.

He said: ‘I was made redundant six months ago because of the collapse of the housing market – we have a real need for social housing.

‘I think Brown should go down.’

A rally in Hyde Park after the march was addressed by a number of trade union leaders along with others.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, addressing the rally, said, ‘We are angry because it is ordinary people paying for the crisis’ and appealed to the G20 leaders to ‘generate a fairer world’.

GMB President Mary Turner said: ‘For years our union has been urging stronger regulation of the banks.

‘Their greed has caused this crisis.

‘We should take away their ill-gotten gains and lock them up and throw away the key like we do with drug runners.’

President of the Australian Congress of Trade Unions, Sharon Burrow, said: ‘Thank you for standing up for the 50 million workers who will lose their jobs.

‘Our message for the G20 leaders is that it can’t be business as usual. We want a better world where people come first.’

From the United Steelworkers of America, Leo Gerrard told the rally: ‘Our union has joined with Unite to form the first international union where we can fight for a future by fighting global capitalism, which has had its way for far too long.

‘It’s time we got putting people back into work in decent jobs for our kids and it’s time to stop bailing these bastards out.

‘It’s time we changed the world. Solidarity forever.’

Eulojio Rusoke, a fair trade campaigner from Uganda, addressing the rally, said: ‘developing countries do not heal and they need fairer trading terms.

‘The World Bank is the source of poverty.’

‘Our job is to kill neo-liberal capitalism,’ said Mark Thomas, the comedian and TV presenter.

‘The RBS is our bank. We should shut it down, get back the PFI contracts and use the HQ for social housing.

‘Last year we saw 300 council homes being built.

‘There are more councils than that. They can’t even build one council house in some councils.’

Leader of UNISON, Dave Prentis, said the crisis ‘was caused by the greed of bankers and government.

‘A million voices in UNISON have demands that put people before profit.

‘Public service workers will not pay the price for bailing out the bankers.

‘If they came for our pensions, we will come for them and we will pull them down.’

The rally was also addressed by, among others, author Susan George, Fiona Malik from the Philippines, writer Tony Juniper, Bianca Jagger and singers Danny Toure and Luke Pritchard from The Kooks.

• More pictures on photo gallery