Over 40,000 workers brought central London to a standstill on Wednesday. They marched through the city on a protest called by the NEU and other unions as part of the 1 February day of action.
Striking NEU, UCU, PCS and Aslef union members were joined by RMT, Unison, CWU union activists as well as students, climate activists, midwives and other trade unionists.
Workers flooded out of the tube stations to Portland Place outside the BBC studios where the demonstration started.
As NEU branches made their way up Regent Street to join the demonstration, UCU pickets outside Westminster University clapped and cheered.
Kirsty is a teacher at Cleves Primary school in Newham, east London. “The government has systematically underfunded schools over the last 13 years. Enough is enough,” she told Socialist Worker. “We cannot stretch our lives any further and it’s time the government paid out.”
Kristy added, “Today I feel really proud to be a trade unionist and teacher. Without the other strikes. teachers may not have felt confident enough to take action. I’m excited to be part of this movement. Today shows our power”.
The demonstration marched to Downing Street, with whistles, chanting, tambourines, cheering, music and dancing.
Everyone on the march had a smile on their face, and there was a sense of excitement to see so many workers together. A lot of those taking part were young women.
NEU and UCU branch banners from all corners of London filled the streets, as well as blue NEU flags and signs reading, “Pay up”.
Throughout the demonstration, NEU workers chanted, “No ifs no buts, no education cuts,” and, “What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it? Now!” UCU strikers chanted, “What do we want? Equal pay when do we want it? Now” and “Union power.”
Aasiya is a media lecturer at the University of Westminster and UCU rep. “We feel that we can’t stay quiet any longer,” she told Socialist Worker. “We’ve got to raise our voice, not just for the university sector but for all public sector workers.”
Aasiya added, “This is also a public movement against what the Conservative government has done to this country in the last decade and more.
“The employers need to take this seriously. If not, it’s escalated action from here on in.”
Siobhan is a teacher in Lambeth, south London. “We don’t think the government is doing enough for teachers,” she told Socialist Worker.
“MPs give themselves a 10 percent pay rise, but where is the pay rise for key workers? And the Labour Party doesn’t want to know.”
Union leaders at the finishing rally said strikers should go back to work proud of what they had done. But they were careful not to give much indication of what they thought should come next.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the strike had “sent a message to the mainstream media” and to politicians in Westminster. RMT union general secretary Mick Lynch finished off the rally. But, although tens of thousands of his members are involved in a pay dispute, he hadn’t called them out on strike.
RMT member Sadie who was on the demonstration told Socialist Worker, “It’s ridiculous that we’re not on strike today. Next time we need to organise to put more pressure on the RMT leaders to call us out.”
UCU striker Sean Wallis got a big cheer when he took to the stage to call for escalation and an indefinite strike. “Across the union the debate is now on about taking indefinite action—we stay out until we win.
“That’s the kind of fight we need to bring down this government.”
See our live blog of the day here and our coverage on Twitter and InstagramOriginal post