Save BIS Sheffield: we won’t be a Northern Poorhouse!

Marching against BIS Sheffield closure, 9.4.16, photo by Alistair Tice

Marching against BIS Sheffield closure, 9.4.16, photo by Alistair Tice   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Alistair Tice

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell described Sheffield as the City of Resistance. It certainly felt like it on 9 April as 700 people marched around the city centre before listening to speeches at a city hall rally.

The demonstration was called by the PCS civil servants union which is fighting to save the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) office in Sheffield from closure and the loss of 250 jobs.

BIS is the very government department charged with responsibility for economic growth and the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Tory Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, wants to close the Sheffield office and move it to London. You couldn’t make it up!

But the march became a rallying point of opposition for all those suffering attacks from this Tory government: civil servants, steelworkers, junior doctors, teachers facing academisation and, noticeably, groups of young people attracted by the anti-austerity movement.

The crowd applauded speeches from PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and John McDonnell – how refreshing to hear a Labour Party leader say he was proud to stand on picket lines with junior doctors and others fighting Tory attacks.

It was also great that several Labour councillors stood on the city hall steps in support of the BIS campaign – but all the more disappointing that they are passing on Tory cuts with 400 redundancies announced in this year’s council budget.

Marion Lloyd, who herself faces redundancy at the Sheffield office, is the president of the PCS BIS group and a Socialist Party member. In her speech, Marion said: “How can anyone trust Sajid Javid to help the steelworkers when he wants to sack another 4,000 civil servants in his own department?”

“Fight together”

She said: “There are two ways of doing things. The Cameron, Osborne, Javid way of looking after number one – that’s the Tory, big business capitalist way. And there’s our way – we unite together, fight together, win together.”

Marion welcomed the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader but said: “We cannot wait until a general election in 2020. We must build solidarity now towards a general strike.”

To the biggest applause of the day Marion ended her speech by saying: “Yes we want Cameron to resign, but not just Cameron. We want the downfall of the whole bloody lot. Let’s show these Tories, these capitalists, what a Northern Powerhouse really looks like – let’s bring them down.”