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Manchester: a whole city behind the strikes

It seemed that everywhere you turned in Manchester city centre there was a picket line somewhere – and the strikes were strong too. Even very large workplaces recorded few staff or service users crossing the picket lines.

But it was no ghost town! Every other person walking down every other street seemed to be holding a placard, wearing an armband or showing a sticker.

A university feeder march down Oxford Road appeared to triple in size as it marched to join the main union march in Deansgate.

There was waving and shouting of “students and workers unite and fight!” as the demonstrations met, and a fantastic atmosphere of unity as the marches converged.

The mix was good too – old, young, white, black, students, workers – all were present as the protest began to march round the town hall, and back down Oxford Road to the university district.

Cars, buses and vans had hooted their support of strikers during the morning, but this stopped as the demo began – there was certainly no room for vehices with what could well have been tens of thousands on the streets.

Office workers looked out, children waved from windows to support the demonstrators. The noisiest contigent award has to go to Unison though, who added to the throngs of people at the university hospitals piping green horns.

Police stayed clear, although a quick look down the side-streets and of the numerous patrols of half a dozen cavalry showed they were ready for action if need be.

Approaching early evening, we finally reached the end rallyin Whitworth Park. All speakers were met with huge applause and cheers, though it must be said in terms of promise for future action there was little substance.

But Sue Bond from the PCS called on unions to set a date for the next strike, and said that her union would be taking action in January and that other unions should join it. The rally chair, from Manchester Trades Council received great applause when he said we’d meet in the park again and again “until victory”.

Today showed a new trade union movement – many of those involved had never been on strike before, and public support was overwhelming. The task for activists in Manchester now should be to hold forums of rank and file unionists prepared to organise for, organise between and fight for the next days of action.

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