Leeds on June 30th was awash with public sector workers on picket lines at locations around the city including schools, colleges, universities, job centres, courts, tax office and several other workplaces.
Harriet Bairstow & Andy Smith, Leeds Socialist Party
At York Road jobcentre several union members on strike reported that management were playing the temporary staff off against permanent staff, giving indications that not going on strike would lead to the extension of temporary contracts, whereas at Park Place jobcentre there were four pickets and management were bussed in. 5 pickets outside the Hume house benefits office in Leeds and at Pudsey jobcentre, the three-person picket showed a definite interest in the forthcoming Jarrow march.
Kirkstall UK Border agency had 9 on the picket line, while there was 2 at the probation office, and 8 at HMRC where very few people crossed the picket lines.
The student movement last year and the hard work and determination of UCU showed in the numbers on the picket line at the university on strike in Leeds, with 15 at Leeds met, 6 at Broadcasting house, 1 at Leeds Technological college, 15 at Leeds City College Park Lane Campus. Additionally 15 turned out at Leeds Trinity University College where members were discussing the bread and roses strike and fundraising events for the Jarrow march.
At Wealston prison in nearby Wetherby 10-15 PCS members were on picket lines and a meeting followed later with 40 in attendance with the POA to discuss future actions. The British Library also had 8-11 on the picket lines.
Lecturers, teachers, students, civil servants and others assembled at Leeds Metropolitan University to march towards Leeds city square. The march was welcomed by the cheers of a several hundred strong crowd who had already gathered in the square, as well as the steel drum band which gave the crowd a positive and lively festival atmosphere in which to start the rally.
On behalf of Leeds Against the Cuts, Leeds Trades Council President and PCS member Sheila Banks maintained the spirits of the around 2,000 strong crowd with rousing introductions for each speaker. Speakers from NUT, UCU, ATL and a local school girl involved in occupations earlier in the year all contributed.
A speech by Jane Aitchison, DWP group president and Socialist Party member, highlighted the cruel cuts on jobs, pay and pensions but also strongly argued for investment in jobs which drew applause from the crowd. Jane’s speech particularly focused on the fact that there is a credible alternative to all of the cuts. She reassured the crowd that they had every reason to be out on strike and had the full support of many people up and down the country.
“Make no mistake – this is not about affordability. Our pension schemes are affordable.” A point which Jane continued, “This isn’t about people subsidising our pensions – this is about our pensions being robbed to pay for the failure of the banks… Today I say to David Cameron and Ed Miliband: We are not making a mistake – but by God you are.” Jane further called for TUC to coordinate public sector strikes on a massive scale to show the coalition that we will not back down and are ready to fight for an alternative.
The rally closed with a local musician singing several songs reminiscent of the long history of the class struggle.