Workers and campaigners in Leeds Photo: Neil Terry Photography / neilterryphotography.co.uk
Published in the Morning Star: The People’s Daily on April 30, 2023
HOUSANDS of people across Britain will mark International Workers’ Day tomorrow with marches, rallies and strike action by NHS nurses.
In a bank holiday weekend of celebrations, workers took to the streets in traditional May Day events.
And tonight, tens of thousands of nurses will launch their latest strike action over pay and against the government’s wrecking of the NHS.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will walk out at 8pm, and is expected to prompt widespread disruption.
The strike was initially planned to continue on Tuesday, but the six-month mandate to strike given in the union’s previous ballot expires at midnight tomorrow night under Tory anti-strike laws.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “The government wants to bring NHS strike action to a close this coming week but with several big unions — and nursing as the largest part of the NHS workforce — still in dispute, it has to do better.
“Only negotiations can resolve this and I urge ministers to reopen formal discussions with the College over pay specifically.
“Nursing staff are looking for a fair settlement that shows the government values and understands their profession.
“We appear a long way from that currently but I remind ministers it is entirely in their gift.”
Nurses are expected to take part in May Day celebrations tomorrow in addition to staffing picket lines.
They were among more than 200 trade unionists who marched and rallied in Leeds trades union council’s 133rd May Day celebration on Saturday.
Leeds TUC president Jane Aitchison told the rally: “In 1890 Leeds and London held their first May Day marches and rallies.
“Here thousands gathered to demand an eight-hour day — because they were having to work harder and for longer hours to make ends meet.
“It should [sound familiar] because the Tories say if you want more money, you’ll just have to work harder.
“This is where they want to turn the clock back to: a time before trade unions, a time without rights, a time when people were super exploited for the profit of a few.”
She said that last year five million workers in the UK took on second jobs to make ends meet.
Following the march, Leeds Labour MP Richard Burgon said: “International Workers’ Day is a celebration of our struggles as a class, the 99 per cent who create the wealth of this country and keep our services running.
“I was proud to march through Leeds alongside nurses, doctors, rail workers, university teachers, postal workers and Civil Service workers.
“It is important we show solidarity with all workers fighting for fair pay. And all workers deserve to be treated with respect.
“On May Day we look forward to maintaining the fight in the year ahead.”
Workers involved in strike action were greeted loudly.
In Glasgow, an estimated 1,500 workers marched from George Square to rally in Queen’s Park Arena after bringing forward the traditional Sunday march to Saturday due to the Celtics v Rangers game.
The walk to the rally was led by the traditional pipe band and workers from PCS, a union currently waging 14 strikes in government agencies around the country as it battles government pay cuts.
At the Queen’s Park bandstand, the crowd gathered to hear speeches from workers in struggle across the movement, including Liz McGachey and Cheral Govind of the PCS, RMT president Alex Gordon and Pinar Aksu of the Maryhill Integration Network.
The bandstand holds a historic place in Glasgow workers’ history as the spot where, in 1960, singer, actor, activist, and socialist Paul Robeson addressed and sung to the crowds.
On the 125th anniversary of his birth local band, The Tenementals, closed the rally with songs Mr Robeson had performed on that same stage in his honour.
In Manchester today (SUN), speakers included Emma Runswick, deputy chair of doctors’ union the British Medical Association and striking workers from the University and College Union, teachers’ union NEU, Civil Service union PCS and rail union RMT.