Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/745/15793
Demo against South West pay cartel
A 24-hour general strike to defend the NHS
Dominico Hill, Bristol Socialist Party
Over 2,000 trade unionists and their families marched in Bristol on Saturday 1 December to protest against the recently formed NHS employer, South West Regional Pay Consortium.
A leaked document from the cartel shows they intend to rip up terms and conditions wholesale. Everything is up for grabs - NHS workers will have to work longer hours, get fewer holidays, less sick pay and a cut in wages.
If that wasn't enough, national pay bargaining and all shift allowances will be scrapped.
The Unite and Unison unions called the demo together with the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance.
The demo was angry and lively. I spoke to dozens of people, arguing the case for a 24-hour general strike to defeat the cuts.
Not one disagreed or thought it was unreasonable or unrealistic, though quite a few did not know that their own trade unions officially support the call for a general strike.
At the rally trade union officials denounced the cartel's proposals without putting forward any strategy to defeat them.
Mervyn Rees, the failed Labour candidate in the recent mayoral elections in Bristol, was greeted by a chorus of boos.
He stuck to general platitudes, 'fairness', 'a modern Bristol', 'going forward in the 21st Century', and failed even to mentioned Labour's commitment to repeal the Con-Dems' legislation on the NHS.
Only the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance speaker got a roar of approval when he called on the unions to name the date for a 24-hour general strike.
We gave out hundreds of National Shop Stewards' Network bulletins. The demonstration, which was called at short notice and given minimal publicity, shows what can be achieved if the unions put their full resources into a campaign.
In The Socialist 5 December 2012: