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Teachers and council workers strike together in Tower Hamlets
The fight against the cuts in Tower Hamlets, East London, had a big boost on Wednesday 30 March when there was a joint strike of local teachers, who are members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in the East London Teachers Association (ELTA), and Tower Hamlets' council workers in Unison.
Pete Dickenson, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party
There were dozens of picket lines throughout the borough and a very well attended march of 1,500 from Weavers Fields to the East London Mosque where there was a rally.
Speaking at the beginning of the march, Socialist Party member Martin Powell-Davies, who is on the executive committee of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), called for a 24-hour public sector general strike as an essential next step in the struggle after the magnificent demonstration on 26th March.
The march got a very positive response from the people of the East End as it wended its way through the borough. At the rally held at the end, messages of support were read out from many NUT branches round the country, from Queen Mary Uni UCU, and the FBU, amongst others.
Speaking at the rally, secretary of Tower Hamlets Unison John McLoughlin called for a public sector-wide general strike, which got a very good response from the audience.
He also said that Unison would defend every job under threat, which was welcome since at an earlier meeting of the Tower Hamlets anti-cuts body, HOOPS, he had said that it would not be possible to defeat all the attacks, and the movement would have to pick the areas where it could win.
Keith Sonnet, deputy general secretary of Unison spoke next and called on the government to revisit its spending plans. For example the troops could be brought home from Afghanistan and Trident could be scrapped to save money.
These aims should and can definitely be achieved, but unfortunately he gave no concrete indication of how.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service workers' union, received a very enthusiastic response when he spoke, possibly because he was the only speaker to explicitly say he was opposed to all cuts.
The PCS is currently balloting 90,000 members for industrial action. He said that the way forward was for unions to strike together.
The PCS is already in discussion with the UCU and NUT on coordinated strike ballots, but all the public sector unions should be balloting. He received a standing ovation and prolonged chants of "general strike!".
This joint union action in Tower Hamlets shows a way forward for the rest of the movement that must be built on quickly, leading to a national 24-hour public sector general strike.