The 125th anniversary of May Day perhaps didn’t quite get the celebration it deserved (see previous article on history). Not for a lack of efforts by Leeds TUC and its affiliates, but due to the obstacles placed in the demonstrations way by both Leeds City Council (who double-booked our traditional rally location) and by the police.
Iain Dalton, Leeds TUC delegate & Socialist Party member
At the Leeds TUC delegate meeting earlier that week, we heard the latest from the negotiations with the police who billed Leeds TUC almost £4000 to cover the cost of policing the march, but failing payment of that were demanding a ‘donation’ of £1000 for them to look favourably on policing the march. Otherwise we were told that Leeds TUC and it’s secretary would be held liable for any issues arising.
With no guarantees of anything, our meeting voted unanimously to reject these demands and prepare to steward the march and stop traffic ourselves.
The following day, was Leeds TUC’s pre-May Day gig, an excellent event with local musician and Horsforth TUSC candidate, Gary Kaye, supporting Attilla the Stockbroker. We also recieved the fantastic news that the police had backed down – a great victory for our right to demonstrate.
In the end, around 300 trade unionists and campaigners turned up. Although a Labour party banner was present, most of their councillors and parliamentary candidates were conspicously absent. Contrast that to the 3 TUSC banners present, as well as most of our election candidates, and a similar number from Left Unity who we are locally standing a joint candidate with in Middleton Park ward.
The rally heard speakers from UCU, No Borders, college students raising money in Pontefract to attend Pride as well as Leeds TUC & local FBU secretary Dave Williams. Wakefield poet, Matt Abbott performed a fantastic poem about voter apathy (video of another performance of it below).
But the stand-out speech was that by Mohammed Taj, former TUC President and one of the leaders of the recent bus strike in Bradford. He thanked local trade unions for their support, but also forcefully emphasised the determination of bus drivers and support staff against erosion of their terms and conditions by First West Yorkshire. Although they are currently in negotiations with the company, bus workers at the depot in Bradford are fully prepared to escalate their strike action.
With the main political parties committed to further austerity measures, its crucial that the trade union movement continues to build the fightback against the cuts in the months ahead.