70,000 MARCH IN LONDON – GENERAL STRIKE – workers tell News Line what they want

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A very enthusiastic delegation, complete with whistles and banners, making their way to Westminster as part of the march
A very enthusiastic delegation, complete with whistles and banners, making their way to Westminster as part of the march

ON A DAY when 750,000 public sector workers struck to defend their pensions, 70,000 of them marched through London with banners flying, determined to see off the coalition attacks and denouncing Labour leader Miliband as a collaborator.

There were banners from branches from all four trade unions involved in the action, as well as political banners, including that of the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Young Socialists.

The WRP led the chanting, with calls for a general strike to bring down the coalition and to bring in a workers government and socialism.

There were chants throughout the march to defend pensions, jobs and wages and not to allow workers to be driven back to the 19th century with new anti-union laws.

At the rally in Westminster Central Hall, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower said: ‘The response from all of our unions, the NUT, ATL, UCU and the PCS has been fantastic.

‘There has been a lot of talking from government but not listening.

‘Public sector pensions are set to fall. People are already working to 65.

‘The basic thing is they’re trying to make us pay more, work longer and get less.

‘We are launching today our campaign “Fair Pensions For All”.

‘We know people in the private sector are also suffering.

‘This government is trying to implement a race to the bottom. We are right to defend public sector, private sector and the state pension.

‘They are all affordable.’

ATL General Secretary Mary Bousted said: ‘We’ve been called irresponsible. How dare they!

‘We are here because we believe in the force of reason.

‘I’m very proud to be here and I’m very proud of my members.

‘But I’m not proud of our politicians. From them, we’ve had lies, damned lies and distorted statistics.

‘Public servants are being expected to pay for the £850 billion paid to bail out the bankers.

‘Ed Miliband says our strike is a mistake. Ed Miliband has been a disgrace,’ she said to loud boos at Miliband’s name.

‘He should be ashamed of himself.’

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘Eighty-five per cent of PCS members are on strike today, that’s over 200,000 people.

‘We’ve got members on strike today in Jobcentres, airports, police stations, courts, all museums.’

He added: ‘When Ed Miliband tells MPs to cross picket lines, he is a disgrace.

‘But there are MPs who have refused to cross the picket line, such as John McDonnell, here today.’

He continued: ‘I am proud to say my colleague from the Greek tax collector’s union is here today.

‘Let’s send a message of solidarity to Greece,’ he said to loud applause.

Annie Holder of the UCU said: ‘Why should I and millions like me pay for the stupidity of the banking sector?’

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘An attack on teachers and lecturers is an attack on education and that is an attack on hope.’

Mark Campbell, London Met UCU, said: ‘Direct public funding for universities is being cut by 80 per cent, so working-class universities like mine are cutting courses by 70 per cent.’

On the march, Gloria Rodrigues, Oaklands School NUT, Tower Hamlets, said: ‘We have to go for it. If we don’t do anything they will just carry on doing what they want.

‘I think a general strike is the only way and not for one day, we have to do it for one week or one month.

‘We have to do it until we win.’

Trainee teacher Louise Cobb said: ‘Everything that’s happening at the moment is completely unfair.

‘I think there should be a general strike where all public sector workers and private sector and mums and dads, the whole country, comes out.’

Patrick Bailey, a learning support assistant, said: ‘I’m here to support the teaching profession against the savage cuts and not just the teaching profession, the health service and the whole Welfare State.

‘This government is taking the opportunity to do as much damage as it can while it can.

‘It’s got to be got rid of. I think there will be a general strike.’

Labour MP John McDonnell said: ‘Ed Miliband has completely miscalculated the situation.

‘He has failed to appreciate the strength of feeling of these workers.

‘He needs to get onside now.’

McDonnell added: ‘If the government doesn’t start negotiating seriously then it it will result in a large-scale coordinated action, ie a general strike.’

Sam Hurst, Wandsworth NUT, said: ‘We need all the unions to be supporting each other.

‘It can’t be left to a few to stand up and bear the brunt.

‘Everyone needs to be involved.

‘My biggest worry is the privatisation of education.

‘That’s what the government are doing and the public are unaware of it.

‘Academies are the privatisation of education. This government is forcing schools to become Academies.’

Gaby Thomas, Camden NUT, said: ‘I work in a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) and I work with children who have desperate situations at home and a very poor start in life.

‘And the sinister thing about this government is that they want to privatise PRU and turn them into old-style reform schools and bring the military in.

‘We have got a bloody society that is trying to split us apart. We have to unite in an absolute general strike to get this government out.’