THERE was an angry and determined mood among the 10,000 trade unionists and youth who travelled from all over the country on Tuesday to attend the TUC lobby of parliament against public sector cuts.
Kevin Hardiman, chairman of the Unite Construction Industry Section South West, and a shop steward in Bristol City Council, told News Line: ‘We are anticipating devastating cuts.
‘We need to come out on the streets. They’ve been messing us about and they seem to want to take us on. Well if that’s what they want, that’s what they’re going to get. I would like to see the TUC call a general strike.’
Equity member Raymond Waring said: ‘These cuts don’t have the backing of the majority of the people.
It’s an ideological assault on working people.
‘With regard to the arts, the planned cuts are absolutely disgraceful, albeit insane, considering how much the arts generates for the economy, not to mention the wider cultural benefits.’
Equity member Peter Docherty said: ‘It’s a long time since I’ve been active in our union. But today, to see the brutal butchery they are planning of everything that’s been built up over 60 years, we have to move fast to defeat them.’
Carol Rowlands, Unite CYWU (Community and Youth Workers Union) from Oxford, said: ‘There are about 150 of us working in Oxfordshire Youth Services and we’re expecting cuts which will decimate the youth service.
‘The cuts will devastate everyone. Having been a teenager in the late 70s, I can foresee a general strike. The cuts the government is planning are too fast.’
Heidi Garside, Unison West Yorkshire Police Branch, said: ‘They’ve already started on us. Anything up to 800 jobs could go if it’s 25 per cent as they threaten.
‘Many of us would be prepared to strike to defend our jobs and the services we provide. It would be the last resort, but I think the mood is changing.’
Hugh Lanning, PCS Assistant General Secretary, told News Line: ‘We have to make clear there will be a fightback and today’s a good start.
‘They are gunning for the Welfare State. The last generation built the Welfare State and it’s our job to save it.’
Ray Rushby, Convenor Unite Joint Supply Services in Bicester, Oxfordshire, said: ‘We supply the armed forces with all the operational clothing.
‘Our jobs are very much threatened with being outsourced and privatised.
‘On the Bicester site, including industrial and non-industrial, there are nearly 2,000 workers.
‘It’s a massive site with an area of 27 square miles and consisting of several buildings.
‘At this moment in time we are all civil servants, but they are planning to split us up into several different compartments.
‘If the government tries to impose total outsourcing and privatisation then we’ll have to go back to the members.
‘I personally think there will be a general strike. What they are trying to do, recoup the deficit so quickly, will provoke a general strike.’
Noel Hulse, NUT North West Regional Officer, said: ‘We’ve got to show the government that we should be investing in education, not cutting it back.’
Stephen Spence, Equity Assistant General Secretary, said: ‘We think they are going to hit the arts with 25 per cent cuts and there’s a likelihood theatres will close. Equity will be prepared to look at anything we can reasonably do to protect jobs and our workplaces.’
Merlin Reader, CWU Mount Pleasant Area Rep and Secretary of Camden Trades Council, said: ‘There should be a general strike to defeat the cuts. We should be more like France.’
Phil Jackson, Unite West Midlands, said: ‘The government proudly announced yesterday that they have recruited an additional 200 benefit fraud investigators.
‘Why don’t they show the same sense of urgency in relation to tax avoidance and evasion from their fat cat friends?’
A lunchtime rally was held in Central Halls prior to the lobby of parliament, with 2,000 packed inside and several thousand left outside.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber told the meeting: ‘We should back fair taxes. Those who did best from the boom should pay for the bust that they created.’
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘This governmnent, with no democratic mandate, is taking a chainsaw to our public services, not because of the deficit but because of an ideology. It hates public services.’
Patricia King, vice-president of the Irish public sector union, Siptu, and vice-president of the ICTU (Irish Congress of Trades Unions), said: ‘The Celtic Tiger left the shores of Ireland mid-2008, and was replaced by austerity measures, three brutal budgets and a rise in unemployment from four per cent to 14 per cent.
‘We are facing our fourth austerity budget on December 7, foreshadowed as the worst yet. Austerity cannot succeed.
‘They have depicted public sector workers as being alien to the state. If you want to know what Britain will look like in two years, look west.’
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: ‘There are currently four million children growing up in poverty and the danger is it will start rising.
‘We need fighting talk about ending child poverty. Reducing the deficit and reducing child poverty are irreconcilable.’
Lizzie Louden, a student at Leytonstone School, told the rally: ‘There is an absolute necessity for a new build at Leytonstone. The school is very outdated. I am so angry the build was cut.’
Unite General Secretary Tony Woodley said: ‘What is planned is the full-blown privatisation of our NHS, but the public don’t realise that yet.
‘They are lining up 1.2 million job losses, but it’s not just 1.2 million. Economists are predicting 4.6 million unemployed by 2011.’
Leading actor and Equity member Benedict Cumberbatch, well-known for playing Sherlock Holmes, said: ‘If the budget cuts go ahead then Arts for Everyone will disappear.
‘A 25 per cent cut in the arts will be a massive attack. The Arts Council was set up at about the same time as the NHS.
‘The Conservatives are proposing philanthro-capitalism. Well it’s already being practised, by Equity members, subsidising the arts through low or no pay.’