Thursday, 30 June 2011

J30: Newcastle meeting pulls together threads of resistance

60 people attended an eve-of-strike public meeting in Newcastle on Wednesday evening. Called by the local Coalition of Resistance group - and supported by Keep Our NHS Public, Northern Region LRC and several other groups - it brought together a wide range of campaigners, trade unionists and supporters under the banner 'Unite the resistance to cuts'.

Teacher and NUT activist Tony Dowling, chairing the meeting, reminded us that public sector pensions is far from being the only issue: "The welfare state was built after the Second World War, when we had a greater deficit than now. We have to draw people together to defend it."
Veronica Killen, UCU regional convenor, said "It's clear that pensions are affordable - the Tories' arguments on pensions are very poor. But our strike is about more than pensions - it is part of a campaign by all of us."

Craig Singleton, a member of Unite's national executive, echoed this: "We need to be clear that we're not just opposed to some cuts but all cuts. This is an attack on our class - an attempt to make us pay collectively. We need to create jobs and grow the economy, support public and private sectors alike."

Mental health campaigner Alasdair Cameron talked powerfully about attacks on disabled people, mental health service users and others, saying "A lot of the attacks on the disabled are happening under the radar. We need an on-going campaign because these attacks are an assault on people's dignity, and are focused on the most vulnerable."

Pete Campbell, a medical student, spoke for Keep Our NHS Public: "The government is now trying to privatise the NHS, bit by bit. They are also making what they call efficiency savings which means cuts. Yet we didn't create the financial crisis. Tomorrow is about pensions and I'll be on the picket lines - and I know you will all support the fight for the NHS."

Solicitor Cris McCurley highlighted the impact of legal aid cuts: "I'm passionate about what we do as legal aid lawyers. There are human rights that are going to be taken away from us, because of cuts to legal aid. Let's all stand together."

Kevin McHugh, from PCS national executive, made a powerful call for unity and solidarity on 30 June and beyond: "Tomorrow isn't just about pensions. It's about cuts and - as Mark Serwotka put it - an orgy of privatisation. The money is there - just think of the public services the rich tax avoiders could pay for if we pursued them."

The public meeting got J30 off to an excellent start in Tyneside. It will be followed, at lunchtime today, by a march through Newcastle culminating in a city centre rally. Trade unionists and supporters are assembling at Centre for Life at midday, then marching to Grey's Monument.


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