Strikers, trade unionists and campaigners rally in Sheffield

There were large rallies and marches across Britain during the mass strike on Wednesday. They ranged from small towns swamped by hundreds to large cities that often saw thousands of strikers on the streets.

A massive 6,000 people joined the strike rally in Sheffield. Workers on strike and those not yet out came together—including a delegation of 50 firefighters.

Socialist Worker supporter Phil reports, “Big contingents from striking teachers, including sixth form colleges. There were college lecturers and impromptu feeder matches created focus for people to join in.

“There were striking RMT, Aslef and PCS union contingents, plus groups of health and council workers who came out on early lunch breaks, plus quite a few students. JustEat delivery drivers also joined.”

In Bristol, protest organisers estimate around 5,000 people packed into the town centre. A feeder march from the universities brought hundreds of UCU union members to the rally at Devonshire Green.  

The Bristol Live news website reported “massive disruption in the city centre”. Strikers chanted, “What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it? Now!” and “The workers united will never be defeated.”

There were large numbers of young workers at the rally, especially women from the NEU union.  Strikers were joined by activists from Extinction Rebellion and the Acorn renters’ union.

More than 1,000 people gathered in central Leeds for a rally outside the town hall. The crowds were entertained by the Commoners Choir led by Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whalley, before moving off for a march down The Headrow.

Unions represented in the crowd included the PCS, RMT, NEU, Unison, UCU and the GMB. Students also came out to support their teachers and lecturers.

The march and rally in Nottingham were also huge, with around 2,000 strikers packing into one of the city’s biggest halls.

From the rally platform, civil service worker Paul Williams of the PCS union launched a stinging attack on Labour leader Keir Starmer’s failure to support strikes. He won one of the loudest rounds of applause of the afternoon.

FBU firefighter Adam Taylor also won a massive cheer when declared to the rally that “this is class war”.

In Manchester some 5,000 people marched, while activists in Liverpool reported “one of its biggest marches in decades”.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people marched through Newcastle on a TUC-organised right to strike march. Peter Jeffrey, who teaches at a primary school in Byker, said, “I’ve not had a real pay increase for 10 years. I’m effectively earning less than I was a decade ago.

“Any future pay rise is to come out of school budgets, meaning I have to think whether anything I get will impact colleagues like teaching assistants.

“And this is from a government that blew up the economy and now can’t find money for hard working nurses and teachers.”

Brighton was rocked by a march of over 2,000 people, ending in a big indoor rally. Activists from the NEU union are now planning to go to Chichester on Thursday 2 March for a protest in education secretary Gillian Keegan’s constituency.

Socialist Worker supporter Christian reports, “A speaker from Care4Calais that talked about the local situation of missing child refugees in Brighton went down a storm.”

Birmingham also rallied around 2,000 supporters. Around 1,000 people gathered for a lunchtime rally in the centre of Glasgow. Kevin Lindsay from the train drivers’ Aslef union told Socialist Worker that his members were out because of “Tory ideology”.

“They want to take on trade unions and workers—and keep the money for themselves,” he said. “We’re going to fight the further anti-trade union laws that are coming in. We’ll fight them in the streets and we’ll fight them in the courts. We’re not going to put up with it.”

Some of Britain’s smaller towns and cities turned out good numbers of people. Around 1,000 strikers from different unions came together in Coventry, and a similar number marched in Portsmouth.

York saw around 1,000 people join a vibrant protest. First-time striker Heather told the rally, “I’ve been a civil servant for seven years, and I’ve seen the chronic underfunding and undervaluing of the public sector.

“In my department, the Health and Safety Executive, we haven’t been offered any pay rise, not even 1 percent. This needs to go further than just one-day. We need all the unions out together, co-ordinated.”

In Exeter, over 750 protesters packed an indoor rally and outside overspill meeting, with the atmosphere described as “fantastic”.

In the south of England some 400 marched to a joint union rally in Colchester and around 350 marched in Hastings. And further along the coast in Weymouth roughly 300 pickets were rallying with teachers joining striking civil servants.

Hundreds packed into a strike rally in Oxford and Chesterfield had a great march of around 300 people. There were at least 400 strikers at an indoor rally in Canterbury, Kent.

A 250-strong rally organised by teachers in Bradford won solidarity from the FBU, PCS, UCU and Unite unions.

Around 100 people, including striking rail workers and teachers, demonstrated outside Tory MP Kieran Mullan’s office in Crewe, Staffordshire. And approximately 100 NEU members rallied in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

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