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The power is in our hands

Together we can fight austerity
Hajera Blagg, Monday, April 18th, 2016

Tens of thousands of protestors descended on central London on Saturday (April 16) for the People’s Assembly March to demand better jobs, health, homes and education.


A large delegation of Unite members, as well as steel workers, junior doctors and others from across the UK took to the streets, marching from the University of Central London to Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against the government’s austerity policies.


Speakers at a rally at the end of the march included shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Unite general secretary Len McCluksey, NUT general secretary Christine Blower, among others. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed protestors at the rally by video message.


Unite branch secretary and London bus driver Mo Ahmed was among the estimated 50,000 demonstrators.


“Austerity is having a very real impact on not only bus drivers but every worker in London and across the UK,” he told UNITElive. “The trade union Bill is especially harmful to workers and that’s why I’m here today — to call on this government to put an end to their policies that attack working people.


Ahmed has been a Unite member for as long as he’s been a bus driver — nearly 10 years. He emphasised that joining a union now is more important than ever before.


‘Assert our rights’

“Being in a union is one of the only ways that we can assert our democratic rights as workers,” he explained. “Attacking unions essentially means silencing our voices.”


Unite member Christopher travelled all the way from Grimbsy to attend the march. Christopher, who just lost his job, explained that he came to send a clear message to the government.


“Austerity is ruining lives,” he said. “Gathering in large numbers like this sends a clear signal to the government that we just aren’t going to accept their attack on us lying down.”


Also involved with his local Unite community branch, Christopher told UNITElive that beyond large central marches, local protests are just as important.


“Our Unite community branch was really involved in the ‘no to benefits sanctions’ rally locally,” he explained. “We have to keep on putting on the pressure — we can’t let up.”



Shadow chancellor John McDonnell in his speech vowed that a Labour government would put an end to austerity once and for all.


“We will halt the privatisation of our NHS and make it public once again,” he said. “And for all those people desperately waiting for a home, I can give this promise. We will build the hundreds of thousands of council homes that will end homelessness.”


Addressing steel workers, McDonnell said, “We will fight for your jobs, and if we have to nationalise for the short-term, we will nationalise. We will fight to save this industry.


“For too long, Labour leaders in the past have been embarrassed by their associations with struggles in the streets or industrial action,” he went on to say. “That era is over. From here on out I give you this commitment — whether it’s in Parliament, on the picket line, or in the streets, this Labour government will be with you.”


Addressing protestors via video message, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed the mounting movement against austerity.


“The austerity we’re in is a political choice, not an economic necessity,” he said. “And that political choice means the poorest in our society are paying the most. Our movement has to force this government to account and force onto the agenda a completely alternative political strategy — an economy that works for all and not the few.”


Pointing to the government being forced to climbdown on cuts to tax credits and disability benefits after strong public pressure, he said that the anti-austerity movement is quickly and effectively gaining ground both in the UK and across the developed world.


“It’s really the power is in our hands to change things, to change society,” Corybn noted. “It’s democratic power that will bring about that change — and it’s working.”


Unite general secretary Len McCluskey marched on Saturday with a delegation of steelworkers from Port Talbot and across the UK who face the destruction of their entire industry of highly skilled jobs.


In his speech at the rally, McCluskey donned a Panama hat in reference to the explosive expose of the tax dodging schemes for the world’s wealthiest, called the Panama Papers.


“The only thing I have from Panama, Mr Cameron, is a hat,” McCluskey said.


“The establishment shames our democracy,” he went on to say. “It is up to all of us – trade unionists, students, pensioners, those in work and those not in work, working together, black and white, to send a clear message – that we will fight, fight, fight for a better tomorrow.”


Pic by Mark Thomas



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