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NSSN lobby of TUC - Manchester
In a show of great determination, elan, and strength, 700 trade unionists and community activists demonstrated outside the Trades Union Congress venue in Manchester on Sunday 12 September, as the TUC delegates were gathering for their annual congress.
After an open air rally, the demonstrators marched with banners, flags and placards to a packed indoor rally and discussion in the Manchester Mechanics Institute.
These lively events were organised by the National Shop Stewards Network to put pressure on the TUC to lead a fight against the Con-Dem government's brutal cuts package.
In particular, the NSSN is demanding that the TUC mobilises the trade union movement for a national demonstration this autumn, as a first step.
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was the first speaker at the open air rally and firmly laid the blame for the economic crisis on the bankers - "It is not public sector workers that caused this crisis".
He said that the TUC needs to be at the head of workers' mobilisations when the reality of the cuts really hits and that "a demo is needed sooner rather then later".
He also condemned the "total privatisation" of Royal Mail being planned by the government and declared that the CWU will fight it, and can be successful if trade unionists mobilise at grassroots level as well as at national level.
NSSN lobby of TUC, Bob Crow, Railway workers union general secretary, RMT, photo Dave Beale (Click to enlarge)
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT), then made a fiery speech, starting off by laying into the Labour Party leaders for "all of a sudden" being "our friends" against cuts and privatisation, having failed workers throughout their 13 years in power.
He said that repealing the anti-trade union laws "wouldn't cost a penny"`, and if Labour had done so, workers wouldn't be burdened by those laws in the fight against cuts now.
It's no good waiting for another Labour government, a fight back now is essential, he stressed. He ended: "Let's make sure a national demo is the start of the fight back, involving industrial action if necessary. We need to reaffirm our belief in militant action... enough is enough, we're fighting back."
Marion Lloyd, from the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and Sheffield Socialist Party, firmly stated: "there has to be absolutely no cuts whatsoever"from "Cameron and Obsborne - the Bill and Ben of the coalition - egged on by 'little weed' Clegg".
The PCS is playing a leading part in the call for a national demonstration.
A similar stand was taken by library worker Nancy Taaffe, a Socialist Party member and Unison member who is an anti-cuts coordinator in Waltham Forest in London.
Nancy said: "We're looking for reconciliation between the words that will be spoken in this building [venue of the TUC congress] and the deeds. We have to build the momentum for a demonstration; the TUC represents six million workers and so can mobilise the working class in its millions - we're here to wake up the sleeping giants in the TUC!".
The opening rally was also addressed by Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention; Ian Leahair from London FBU, Helen Flanagan from the PCS young members network, Gill George from Unite, Mark Campbell from the UCU, Tony Mulhearn from the 'Liverpool 47', Celia from Bectu, Rebecca Kirkpatrick from West Midlands Unison and Martin Powell Davies from the NUT.
Martin said he is: "tired of reading that 'the opinion polls aren't with us yet'. Did the French workers check the polls before two million of them went out on strike? No, they acted, then afterwards the polls can be checked, as people respond when they see action taking place".
Many calls to act were also made during the closing, indoor rally, from a range of speakers, including interventions from the floor.
One intervention was from Coventry Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, who reminded the audience: "Resistance is inevitable, resistance is necessary, but resistance is only half of what's needed ..... next May we need hundreds of anti-cuts candidates standing in the local elections".
Another contributor to the discussion was Steve Hedley from London RMT, who opened his remarks by saying: "Its good to be in Manchester where the TUC and the leadership of the working class are meeting - it's a shame they're not meeting in the same place!".
From the platform, Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary, invoked the example of the Militant-led mass movement that defeated Thatcher's poll tax, and said we need another movement on the same scale.
There was a fitting close to the day's events by Linda Taaffe, from the NSSN steering committee. She said we're entering "a titanic class battle" and we need the type of movement that French workers are showing the way forward with, in their millions.
Linda condemned TUC leader Brendan Barber's mention of organising a demo next March; "What use is that, when the cuts can already be signed, sealed and delivered? We need a demo in the autumn ... Comrades, this today is the first step, but it's a great step".
All trade union representatives were speaking at the rallies in a personal capacity