On a warm, sunny day in Manchester (yes, really!) 100 of us from York joined another 80,000 to protest the Government’s unfair Trade Union Bill. The Bill requires unrealistic levels of voter turnout and bans online voting. It also allows employers to use agency workers to break the strike. In other words, it’s an attack on industrial democracy that has to be countered.
Organised by the TUC, demonstrators came from across England and Wales. Banners and placards also proclaimed the People’s Assembly’s anti-austerity message. We partly encircled the centre where the Tories who are perpetrating these injustices were starting their annual conference. This was the biggest march Manchester had seen in years. We weren’t going to let the Tories grab all the headlines!
Some of us spotted friends from the National Gallery who had come up to York when we were protesting our Art Gallery’s new charges. It was great to remember the mutual support. (The National Gallery strikers had just won a significant percentage of their demands, including the re-instatement of their union rep, Candy Udwin.)
The march ended with a rally in Castlefields. A police put up an electronic sign telling demonstrators that the Arena was full, whilst the space remained largely empty. Sadly, this meant most people missed some great speakers. Owen Jones was one of number of speakers urging the audience to continue the fight at home. ‘Whatever they throw at us,’ he said, ‘… we stick together and throw everything we have into building the biggest progressive movement this country has ever seen.’
Afterwards, the demonstrators split up: some to go home, perhaps with new motivation. Of those who stayed, hundreds had been planning to sleep in the Sugden Sports Centre, but the venue informed organisers that this was cancelled on just 48 hours notice, citing ‘security risks’. Two local churches came to the rescue, offering church hall floors. It’s worth noting that the sports hall’s managing agent is Serco, a company that’s made loads of money out of privatisation …
Coming soon… ‘We Took Back Manchester!’ – a report on the rest of the week’s demonstrations. [Both reports written by group member Hazel]