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Portsmouth: Preparing to defeat the cuts
The first public meeting of Portsmouth trade council's anti-cuts campaign saw 80 trade unionists and community activists packed into a university lecture hall on the evening of Thursday 16 September to discuss and debate with speakers from the unions RMT, Unite and Unison.
Ben Norman, Portsmouth Socialist Party
On the platform RMT deputy general secretary Pat Sikorski was joined by Unite general secretary candidate Jerry Hicks and Unison regional officer Phil Woods, with each speaker offering a different perspective on the question of cuts.
Sikorski, with the full support of the room, announced that we should not accept one single cut, declaring that the attacks of the coalition government are nothing less than an attempt to send the welfare system back to the dark days of the 1930s.
In comparison Woods was forced to defend himself from questions from the floor that he had openly accepted the need for cuts on the local TV news the night before.
With a showmanship style, Hicks attempted to raise the rhetorical level against cuts; however the mood from the floor was clear.
The assembled activists were already strongly against the cuts, what was wanted was a clear strategy to build a campaign to defeat them.
The meeting, which followed a successful Budget Day demonstration in June, will be followed by a rally in central Portsmouth on 29 September as part of the international day of workers' action, called by the European Trade Union Confederation.
It is crucial that following that rally the trades council builds on this momentum and strengthens the links between union branches by officially launching a Portsmouth anti-cuts union.
Such a campaign should continue to rebuild and strengthen the city's labour movement, a process the trades council has taken to with fresh determination since the election of Mick Tosh, RMT rep and former TUSC candidate, as Chair earlier this year.
However, it should also link into the wider community, including student and pensioner groups, to build a city wide campaign to defeat the cuts.