Stafford Hospital Occupation Supports Ys March For Jobs!

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GMB union leaders from Stafford gave their support to the YS March for Jobs
GMB union leaders from Stafford gave their support to the YS March for Jobs

THE Young Socialists march from London to Liverpool arrived at the Stafford occupation camp to cheers from the campers on Day 11 of the March for Jobs.

The camp, which was set up to defend Stafford Hospital from a vicious programme of closures of the hospital’s essential services was in its 43rd day of occupation.

One of the occupiers Julian Porter explained how the camp started.

He said: ‘My son Leo wanted to camp out in the garden one evening. We used a “Save Stafford Hospital” sign as a door and posted it on facebook. When people went on-line they thought that our tent was on the hospital grounds so they turned up to Stafford hospital looking for us and of course we weren’t there.

‘It was obvious to us occupying the hospital had great support, so we decide to do it. It started with just a couple of tents and here we are over six weeks later with a fully functioning kitchen and larder, generator and over 30 tents all provided by the community.

‘The support has been tremendous, we even have our own campaign shop where we sell our mugs, T-shirts, stickers.’

A staff nurse at Stafford Hospital in Unison union said: ‘I’ve worked here for 28 years and it’s disgraceful the way the hospital has been denigrated by the media for so long.

‘It’s only now they realise the damage they have done with their reporting, the local paper has finally started to support us. This occupation is strengthening the community and is getting bigger which shows the resolve of the people of Stafford.

‘Last Thursday we had over 200 people down here. They are now threatening to close down Maternity. Our A&E has not been open for 24 hours since 2010, presently it is only open from 8.00am until 10.00pm, Paediatrics is also threatened.

‘We want to be allowed to care for our patents without being judged, we have been judged vey unfairly for years. Staff and patients and their families are suffering for what they have done to our hospital.’

Ravi Bhakhri a local councillor and Unite shop steward brought down two big boxes of samosas for the marchers.

He said: ‘The way that zero-hour contracts are being implemented is modern-day slavery. My son is in university now and he has to pay £9,000 a year in fees, when I went it was free.

‘Free education is so important becaus it is our birthright. We as parents pay all sorts of contributions to the (government’s) coffers. I wish the YS marchers all the best on their march they are sending a strong message to the present government to do something pro-active and positive so that they can have a secure job, comfortable life and stable family.’

Richard Duffy, one of the Stafford Hospital occupiers said: ‘In order to gain Foundation Trust status which was actually forced on this hospital by the Department of Health, Monitor, a regulatorary body, imposed ten million pounds worth of cuts and more than 150 nurses were made redundant.

‘On top of that any nurses who wanted to leave were not replaced. I have got a lot of respect for the YS march because it is standing up for the rights of young people. I have a son of 18 who can’t find a job.’

Mark Bergman, GMB organising officer at the Stafford office said: ‘I support the YS march for Jobs and their call for the TUC to call a general strike.

‘The economy is supposed to have picked up, but inflation has gone up and so has youth unemployment, this is no good for the future. I’ve worked in manufacture almost all of my life and most of that time it was considered a dirty word.

‘If you make products here then people would have jobs and it rolls down with apprenticeships for youth. The health sector and local govenment will be coming out on stike on the 13th and 14th of October. The idea is if you can get everyone to come out together then things will change. The Young Socialists need to lobby the TUC because they represent all the unions in the country.’

The marchers were treated to a hot meal at the camp and in the morning their bellies were filled with a brekfast cooked in the occupation kitchen to prepare them for the long march to Stoke.

The Stafford occupiers joined forces with the YS marchers as they left the camp shouting in unison ‘Defend our hospitals – occupy now! No privatisation, Defend the NHS!’

After the 26 miles to Stoke-on-Trent centre, Hanley, the marchers recived a warm wlcome from two Labour Stoke on Trent councillors.

Ex-miner, councillor and GMB member Duncan Walker addressed the marchers.

He said: ‘We are now relying so much on imported coal that the price has been forced right up, soon they will be in a situation where they will have to reopen the coal mines.

‘This area used to have a big mining industry, under the Thatcher government in the 1980s, but the Tories systematically decimated the lot. We are still left with the legacy of that today. Stoke council is faced with making cuts because central govenment has slashed their budget, we are left with the big problem of youth unemployent – Stoke is city that is sinking.

‘All we are left with is pound shops, betting shops and pawn shops. I think the TUC must give the Young Socialists a platform to speak at the Congress when you reach Liverpool. I believe that without a shadow of a doubt we have a society that just rewards the rich and turns a blind eye towards the exploitation taking place towards zero- hour contracts.’

Shaun Pender, a CWU member and cabinet member for education on Stoke council, said: ‘We all absolutely admire the tenacity and fight that the Young Socialists are displaying with their march from London to Liverpool.

‘We also believe that it’s massively important that young people have real educaitonal opportunities and that they are not deterred by the prospect of a lifelong debt.

‘Young people also should have the right to employment opportunities offering them a decent standard of living. Keep up the good work, keep raising the profile of the youth agenda and I would implore the labour and trade union movement to get behind these young people and help them make their very valid point.’