OVER 3,000 workers and youth were on the TUC May Day March from Clerkenwell Green in Islington to Trafalgar Square in Central London on Sunday.
The striking Churchill Cleaners and sacked P&O workers led the march with their ‘Boycott P&O’ and ‘Pay Justice for Churchill Cleaners – £15 an hour Now!’ RMT banners.
Also on the march were banners and delegations from RMT Paddington No 1 Branch, South-East Region TUC, Unite, Turkish and Kurdish Community, Harrow, Ealing and Slough Trades Councils, Wandsworth POA, and SW and NE London Equity.
A lively contingent behind the Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists banners kept up constant chants of: ‘NATO out of Ukraine – End Imperialist War! End Israeli Occupation – Forward to the Palestinian state! Capitalism is bankrupt – Kick the Tories out!’
As the march was assembling, Oluwarotimi Ajaya, RMT NEC member and Assistant Chair Paddington Station branch, said: ‘Nationalise P&O. Once they become nationalised it will end the rip-off culture.
‘They sacked 800 workers via recorded social media because they claim there is no need for these highly-trained workers and replaced them with untrained cheap labour.
‘We have to take industrial action to get these jobs back. It’s not just 800 workers, it’s 800 families. If we lose this battle the future of the union is at stake.
‘They have already started the roadmap to reduce the Tube workforce on the Piccadilly Line by 30% and the same on the rest of the Underground. This is a massive onslaught.’
Richard Alcock, RMT Health & Safety Rep Waterloo Station, said: ‘We are balloting for strike action against the pay freeze and the imposed changes to our terms and conditions.
‘They are proposing to replicate the way that they closed ticket offices on London Underground on the railways. Also they want to make Sunday part of the working week, so doing away with overtime rates.
‘At our branch meeting the other day it was made clear that we have to get a big turnout and a big YES vote for strike action. A pay freeze is really a massive pay cut.’
Leading the march were the striking Churchill Cleaners, who are employed on poverty pay by the private contractor Churchill, to clean trains run by GTR, Eurostar, SE trains and HS1.
Their leader, Serwaa, RMT Rep at Victoria Station, told News Line: ‘We are on strike for 11 days from 27th April to 7th May.
‘They are paying us minimum rate. It was £8.91 and now it’s £9.50, which we have still not yet got. We are demanding £15 an hour, free travel, sick pay and Sunday double, or at least time and a half.
‘We are based at Victoria and we are all RMT members.
‘We have picket lines everywhere but our big picket is at Victoria every morning from 10am-12pm.
‘We are fighting to win and we are going to win.’
Unite member and journalist Mehmet Yalcimer said: ‘It is necessary for the TUC to call a general strike. Everything is going up except wages. Fire and rehire can only be defeated through the power of the trade unions. We need a workers party, Labour and the others are no use.’
Unite member and building worker Paul Cribinns said: ‘Starmer is useless. The whole of the trade union movement should come out on strike to defeat what P&O did. Never mind the secondary picketing legislation, we have to smash the anti-union laws.’
Ayvianna Snow, Chair West London Equity, said: ‘Equity members are really suffering from the cost of living crisis. We suffered terrible unemployment during the pandemic and our members are suffering now too.
‘AI (Artificial intelligence) is taking away actors’ jobs. With video games, they scan your face and use it for their own purposes without your permission.
‘Our members are being asked to sign contracts which actually take away their rights to their own image.’
Vincent Moystad, Co-President UCU, Goldsmiths University, said: ‘We’ve been in dispute at Goldsmiths since the start of the academic year about the programme of job cuts they are implementing.
‘We’ve also been participating in the national UCU struggles around pensions and pay and we have taken just shy of 40 days of strike action all told.
‘Initially, they wanted to make just over 50 people redundant back in November. We’ve managed to delay it but we’ve now had 16 dismissal notices go out and what we’ve seen is that they have specifically targeted trade union activists, as well as people who teach on foundation courses, ie access courses for the less academically privileged.
‘They are also targeting people teaching the history and literature of the Middle East and Palestine. What they are doing in a nutshell is carrying out the Tory agenda.
‘We’ve recently won our re-ballot and in spite of these attacks we are continuing to strike and resist and we will continue until we win.’
At the end of the march the Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists held a powerful meeting with over 50 attending in the function room at the Hercules Pillars pub in Covent Garden.
WRP General Secretary Frank Sweeney, who chaired the meeting, opened by sending fraternal greetings to workers in struggle internationally, ‘particularly the Palestinian people who have stood firm in their fight, the people of Syria, who have defeated the attempt to overthrow their government, the people of Iraq and Yemen and the people of Afghanistan who, after 20 years of struggle, have won a huge victory.’
Sweeney continued: ‘Imperialism has to be finished off in its home and that means revolution in the west.
‘We send our warmest greetings to the working class in Ukraine and in Russia, who have driven the fascists out, especially in Mariupal.
‘Russia had an absolute right to defend itself. The Ukrainian working class in its masses hates fascism. The present regime in Ukraine is a fascist regime put in power in a coup in 2014.
‘We’re in the trenches with the Ukrainian and Russian working class, fighting to rid Ukraine of fascism.’
The first speaker at the meeting was Chris Anglin, UCU Branch Chair at the College of North East London, who said: ‘This is a hostoric May Day, where the capitalist crisis is exploding, with a refugee crisis, war in Ukraine and out of control inflation, worsened and heightened by the coronavirus.
‘The stock market is going to collapse like a lead balloon. That is the crisis they are in and that’s what is driving them to war. Imperialism has to be defeated in its home.
‘In Britain in further education they are casualising and doing away with pensions. In my college last year we had 10 days of strike action but then the leadership caved in.
‘Fifty per cent of further education lecturers are on zero hours casual contracts and they are cutting higher education workers’ pensions. The government has completely ignored the second 10 days of strike action. It’s building up to an all out national strike.
‘The Tories have to be kicked out, there are strikes everywhere. This TUC leadership has capitulated. There is a fight in every union now, nationalise to defend jobs. The issue is to build a leadership to defeat the union leaders. Revolutionary leadership is the issue. Build the WRP.’
Young Socialists speaker Aabhinav Tyagi said: ‘I’m a student of international human rights law. Before that I was working on castes. People in India are suffering under the BJP-led Modi government.
‘I want to focus on the history of May Day. It began in May in Chicago nearly 200 years ago where the agitation was for an eight hour working day. Then there was the terrible Haymarket Massacre following the Chicago demonstration.
‘The irony is that in America they are supposed to celebrate that battle now on 1st September to break the link of May Day and international solidarity.
‘Today there needs to be a major reimagining of time and we need to come up with a new progressive idea about how much time we need to work.
‘India in 2014 elected the Hindu nationalist BJP party whose parent organisation is the RSS, which is inspired by the Nazi SS. The BJP claimed it won the majority in the election, but in fact it only won 35% of the vote.
‘They have come up with laws to oppress the Muslim population, criminalising dissent, passing laws criminalising use of loud speakers.
‘However, India has managed to keep a more logical and reasonable approach towards Russia’s so-called invasion of Ukraine and we must not let them get away from their current position of fraternity with Russia.
‘Regarding bringing young people into our struggle, different political groups are often misleading the young and presenting as socialist certain positions that no-one in their right mind would call remotely socialist.
‘We can attract large numbers of youth and I hope to be part of our efforts to bring more young people into our movement.’
Joe Brack, from the Julian Assange Defence Campaign, said: ‘The High Court have demanded the Magistrates Court carries out its instruction to extradite Julian Assange. The Home Secretary Priti Patel has a few weeks to do it and we can write to her to ask her not to do so.
‘Julian Assange published the war crimes American and British imperialism committed in Iraq, where they had a clear policy of targeting the civilian population and also journalists.
‘Julian Assange warned us all of this and he’s taken ten years of punishment and persecution for it, first besieged in the Equadorian embassy for seven years and then three years in Belmarsh.
‘The US Department of Justice and National Security Agency are determined to punish him. At last Amnesty International have firmly come out and said he is a political prisoner and must not be extradited.
‘Without WikiLeaks and without Julian Assange we would not know the truth of all the crimes of America and Britain.
‘Priti Patel will sign this extradition order, we know that. There is an appeal procedure, but we also know that the government will ignore the appeal and send him to the US to face 175 years in jail.
‘We need revolutionary action to stop this, we really need to take action to free Julian Assange.’
All Trades Unions Alliance National Secretary Dave Wiltshire was the final speaker, insisting: ‘So deep is the crisis of capitalism in its final, most barbaric stage of imperialism, that it can only survive through war on the working class at home and wars to overthrow the socialised property relations established by the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.
‘We need a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers government and socialism.’
The meeting finished with a rousing rendition of The International.