‘A general strike is the obvious next step’ – Trade unionists tell News Line

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Thousands of workers saluted the memory of Bob Crow as a working class fighter on yesterday’s May Day march
Thousands of workers saluted the memory of Bob Crow as a working class fighter on yesterday’s May Day march

MORE than 20,000 trade unionists, workers and youth marched from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square on London’s May Day yesterday.

The march was led by the RMT Fishburn Band which played all the way along the route. This was immediatley followed by scores of RMT union banners led by RMT London Underground Engineers Branch, then Waterloo, Bakerloo, Paddington, Hammersmith and City, Jubilee Line, Blackpool, Taxis, Exeter and many others. There were also hundred of pictures of the late RMT general secretary Bob Crow.

Behind the thousands-strong RMT contingent, followed other trade union banners, including NUT, ASLEF, PCS, Unison and others. There was a powerful contingent of Young Socialists behind the WRP and YS banners chanting ‘TUC get off your knees, call a general strike!’ ‘No ghost stations, defend every job’ ‘No zero-hours contracts, youth demand jobs’, ‘Hands off Ukraine, imperialism out!’, ‘Defend the NHS, no privatisation’ and ‘No cuts, no closures, kick this government out’.

RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley told News Line: ‘We’ve been out now in a second wave of strikes on London Underground and we are going out again on Monday night for another three days.

‘A general strike is overdue, we support the POA resolution calling for a general strike 100%, and the TUC really needs to act on it. It’s the only way we are going to defend working people.’

Paul Jackson, LU engineering branch secretary, said: ‘The strike was 100% solid and we are looking for it to be equally solid next week for another three days, which will definitely be on.’

Fred Potter, retired seafarer and RMT tutor in Dundee, said: ‘It is a diabolical situation we are in. At P&O in Dover, we’ve got kids working on ferries on zero-hour contracts.

‘They are paid going out to Calais or Bolougne, but if the passenger numbers are down and they say they are not needed then they are not paid for coming back. The next thing will be that they’ll be told to pay their own fares home! It’s the same at Stenna Line. Zero-hours contracts are like a plague and it’s getting worse.’

Pete Lockheart, PCS national organiser, said: ‘The trade unions share an increasingly common agenda, all balloting on exactly the same issues. Unite, Unison, NUT and our members are all involved in exactly the same struggle, and so a general strike is the obvious next step.’

Luke Crawley, BECTU assistant general secretary, said: ‘Our members at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton are on strike again tonight from 6.00pm. The campaign at the Ritzy is to achieve a London Living Wage for our cinema members.

‘The company that owns the Ritzy also owns many cinemas around London and around the country, and they are also a subsidiary of Cineworld which owns hundreds of screens all around the country. The Ritzy workers are a very spirited and cohesive group and we think they are going to win.

‘They are prepared to take strike action until they win, and their victory must set a precedent for a Living Wage for all cinema workers.’

There was a large contingents of Turkish and Kurdish workers with huge flags and banners as well as a banner from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Cheryl McLeod, a Unite rep at One Housing, was with a contingent fighting for the reinstatement of their union conveynor Brian Kennedy. A strike ballot of their members started on May Day yesterday.

‘We are a very strong and united workforce. We took strike action last year against pay cuts and we held them off for 21 months. Brian managed to win us great concessions and that is why they’ve victimised him.’