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N30 Leeds: over 10,000 take to the streets against Tories

November 30 in Leeds saw a solid strike, with the city covered in picketlines, and a massive demonstration and rally of 10,000 or more, the biggest trade union demo in decades in the city. Workers Power members staffed their picketlines or, for those not on strike, organised solidarity visits, while REvolution youth toured picketlines with a Youth and Workers Unite and Fight.

By 7 Am picketlines were up around the city.  Walking or driving through the streets saw picketlines everywhere, from a couple of people up to twenty. Places you never knew were council run!  It just goes to show how extensive the public sector remains.

The strike showed a great mix of both sections that have been on strike several times in recent years, and pickets and activists out for the first time.  Picketlines at the DWP and HMRC, organised by the PCS civil servants union, had a good turnout based on solid organisation, run by teams of reps and activists who clearly had been here before. Up the road a lively, younger picketlne of council workers, many on strike for the first time.  Later crowds of reps carrying their Unison, PCS, GMB and Unite flags could be seen streaming out of the city centre up to Woodhouse Moor, the start of the Leeds TUC march.

The regional TUC had called a rally in the city centre for twelve and already by then there were several hundred in the square, when the massive march came down the Headrow. While there were alot of students on it it was overwhelmingly contingents of workers, marching in with a roar of whistles, vuvuzelas, drums and chants.  There was massive support from the lunchtime crowd. The crowd was so big that it spilled out into the street as marchers listened to the speakers, closing the Headrow for the first time since the antiwar protests at the height of the 2003 antiwar movement.  The most militant and fighting speeches were greeted with cheer after cheer by the crowd.

Women workers were prominent on all the picketlines and in the crowd, showing that the public sector is a bastion not just of trade unionism but of women’s advance in society, and what’s at stake if the Tories succeed in breaking it.

Talking to pickets, it was clear the high level of awareness of what was at stake and the determination to fight the government and win, for young and old, experienced and first time strikers alike. Not only did every person asked sign our petition to “no concessions on pensions – one day is not enough, escalate the strikes” many agreed that Labour wasn’t an alternative, and were angered that the two Eds (Miliband and Balls) and local Blairite MP Rachel Reeves refused to back the strike. While many were not clear on how to escalate, it was clear that to most this was no protest strike, they want to win. Many understood that this was more than a pension issue, that it was an opportunity to challenge the whole Tory cuts agenda by going beyond the public sector and towards a general strike.

This was a great day for Leeds. Clearly the picketlines of Unison local government and the PCS in particular were militant and a regular monday meeting, called by the regional and local UCU, has been launched to try to draw in and organise this crucial layer. If a joint strike committee of delegates from the workplaces is developed, Leeds workers can be in a strong position to make their leaders fight,or prepare to fight without them. Today was a signifigant step forward on the road to a general strike to defeat all the cuts and bring down the government.

Voices from Leeds Picketlines

Julie Unison member

I am striking because I dont think Ishould have to work for longer for less pension.  WIth only a one percent pay rise in the last 5 years or a 4.8% paycut the only way forward is more strike action.

Mandy GMB

I’m on strike because i dont agree with the government taking an extra 3 percent in pensions payments because I dont think its anything to do with interst payments. I’ve already lost £150 a month from my wages, I dont want to lose another 3 percent.  I think we need everyone out on strike and everyone to support the unions. The government are trying to pit private workers against public workers but the more I come under attacktheworse off private sector workesr wil be. All society needs to come together to beat the government.  Its really encouraging and its great your supporting us especailly because your young, it shows that lots of people care about pensions and are prepared to actively support other workers.

Mel PCS

Our members conditions have been erorded by the Blair government and continued apace by this mob, the Tories are taking advantage.

Liz Unisons schools support staff

Today’s a fabulous start!  I’m on strike because I dont’ like getting robbed and seeing other people get robbed. If you let someone take money out of your pocket then next its the clothes off your back and the shoes off your feet, so I support the strike.  Now we need to mobilised more people to take action, alot took action today, there could be evenmore.  If we mobilise more people we educate them, that’s why its important to strike. Don’t be afraid of losing some pay, we need to dig down and stand firm or they will walk all over us and the cuts will be deeper. The key is continued joint action of the unions.

Angie Unison NHS

I’m on strike because i think all the cuts are wrong and why should we pay for their crisis?  Today is excellent , the march was very big and militant, lots of people. Now we need an all-out strike and to bring the government down!

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