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Mood of defiance in Huddersfield
OVER 300 angry, defiant marchers took to the streets of Huddersfield in a joint trade union demo against cuts and job losses on 11 September. Unison, Unite, NUT and trades council members were joined by rank and file Unison members who sent the Labour council a message, loud and clear, that we mean business.
Spirits on this noisy, enthusiastic demo were high and hundreds of shoppers applauded us, so we took the march around the town centre for a second time. Many people joined in for this 'lap of honour'.
Just as significant was the support from young people. Over 50 protesters marched with the Youth Fight for Jobs contingent after active campaigning outside all the local colleges. More young people joined in as we passed through the town. The meeting after the demo attracted 30 young people.
Unfortunately little mention was made of the looming industrial action since the Unison officialdom postponed the strike ballot at the eleventh hour. The council had agreed to postpone some, but not all, of their proposals for cuts and to enter into 'meaningful talks'. That was enough for regional officials to agree to postpone the ballot.
Negotiations begin on 15 September. Pressure from below has clearly forced a change of heart on the council's part. However, activists in the branch believe the ballot should have still gone ahead but were not given any opportunity to have a say.
Unfortunately the branch leadership agreed with the postponement, but the unions' chief stewards voted to condemn the postponement and to demand the ballot's reinstatement.
This dispute will be crucial to the future of any organised opposition to these vicious cuts. The demo showed that ordinary members will respond to a call to action where a clear lead is given.
Postponement must give heart to those in the TUC who believe we should wait before we act. Jobs, services and conditions are under attack now and we cannot afford to wait any longer.
The next few weeks will show whether this council is serious about talks or just trying to buy time. A strong fighting strike committee in the Unison branch is playing a critical role in giving a lead to members in the dispute. Over 30 workplace meetings have taken place which also helped build for the demo.
We are all clear that more demonstrations and ultimately strike action is going to be necessary - but this demo was first blood to the workers!
In The Socialist 15 September 2010:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party youth and students
Feature: Socialist Party women
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review