An estimated 8,000 trade unionists and campaigners marched in good spirits on Sunday 2 October 2016 in Birmingham with a clear message to the Conservative Party Conference and to the UK government. ‘Austerity economics has failed and the policy of austerity must end. Public services, industry and infrastructure all need massive investment. Our government should begin with investment in education, the NHS and homes for all, and this has never been more affordable because of the low cost of government borrowing’.
Speakers made clear that the massive increases of ‘in work poverty’ and ‘under-employment’ illustrate that economic policy is failing, and that the massive cuts to funding for local authorities, which are now failing to meet their statutory duties to vulnerable people, mean that the cuts are cruel and sometimes deadly.
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, captured the tone and spirit of the day when he said that, cutting the number of teachers in schools, cutting the terms and conditions of employment of teachers, cutting the number of Teaching Assistants and of Learning Support Assistants, and the long term impact of the real terms public sector pay freeze, all ultimately impact on the quality of education that our children enjoy and depend upon. Utterly self-defeating and wasteful. The only way forwards is to invest to succeed in ways that benefit all, not the few.
On a colourful day with exceptional weather, and much noise, (drummers good, vuvuzelas bad), we saw banners from BECTU, BFAWU, CWU, CSP, FBU, GMB, NUT, PCS, UCATT, UNITE, UNISON and USDAW, and no doubt many other unions mobilised too. Many trade councils were represented, including Cambridge, Southwark, Ealing and the Welwyn Garden City trades council banner was on display, demonstrating the breadth and depth of support for this national demonstration. The SERTUC banner was prominent at the opening rally, every step of the march and at the closing rally. Another world is possible, and it will have trade unionism and socialism at its core.
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Laurie Heselden @TUCLaurieHeseld
Megan Dobney @mdobney