Around six hundred people met at Bexley Square to march to Manchester to join over 50,000 demonstrators telling the Conservative Party Conference that Tories are not welcome here.
Before the march set off, there was a rally on the steps of the old Salford Town Hall, perhaps for the last time, as the listed building has now been sold to Liverpool-based X1 Developments for 122 `luxury apartments' (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
All the speakers at the rally urged the need to fight back over what Salford City UNISON's Steve North called "an ideological attack by this Government on working people".
Only last week, the Hovis workers in Wigan showed how this can be done, having won their strike against Premier Foods, with the best slogan ever… `Zero Hours, Zero Crumpets!'
"We had a massive victory" said Geoff Atkinson of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union "We got rid of zero hours contracts, created 25 permanent jobs…we got parity pay. Solidarity can win."
The need for workers and the community to support each other was backed by Fire Brigades Union rep Simon Hickman who told the crowd how Hovis workers had come from Wigan to join Salford firefighters on the picket lines during their strike last week (see here)…
"It really did make a massive difference to the feeling on the picket lines, it gave our members confidence to know that they can forward with the fight" he said "And our fight isn't just about our pensions, it's about your safety – do you really want sixty year old firefighters coming to try and rescue you? They probably couldn't even rescue themselves at that age."
To great cheers, he added "This Government are vicious they're just there to ravage our services and benefits, they've got no idea about social justice. It's marches like this and action that are going to make the difference."
Teacher Roy Wilkes spoke of the links between the firefighters' dispute and the teachers' dispute against working until they are 68… "It's all absurd" he said "But we really are in this together, and the sooner we come out together and strike together, and stay out together the sooner we can get our pensions back."
In a passionate speech, he added that the teachers' struggle is not just about pensions, and not just about pay and conditions, but about "a struggle for the heart and soul of education"…
"The establishment - in which I include not only the Tories and LibDems but also, unfortunately, the Labour front bench - have a vision of education that is utterly miserable" he explained "They want privatised schools run for profit by corporations, they want a pared down curriculum which is based on rote learning facts which can be easily and cheaply tested by profit hungry exam boards. They want our kids to be nothing more than components on a conveyor belt to be churned out for the corporations to accept low pay and miserable conditions – it is a miserable, miserable vision of education…
"We want an education system that values children, that encourages them to learn, not through fear of failure but of love of learning; which encourages students to question power and authority, including the power of wealth and the authority of celebrity" he added "We want them to question those in power, not to accept what is thrust upon them, and all of this is being taken away from them…We need to create a movement that can sweep this Government from power, that can sweep away austerity and sweep away neo-liberalism…"
Meanwhile, Stephen Hall, of the Greater Manchester Federation of Trades Councils, spoke of the toxic waste, to go with the toxic policies of the ConDem Government, if fracking is allowed to happen on Barton Moss in Salford…
"IGas have announced that they are intending to do exploratory drilling for shale gas and coalbed methane on Barton Moss, so we've got a double whammy of rigs going up and a whole range of problems associated with it" he explained "The potential pollution of millions of gallons of water from potentially thousands of wells being drilled from the Trafford Centre to Ellesmere Port, down the Manchester Ship Canal, and anywhere where there used to be a coal mine is a threat.
"They tell us it will solve our gas and electricity problems, it's not going to do that it will pollute our underground aqua flows; and you're talking hundred and thousands of trucks shipping millions of gallons of water to god knows where, getting rid of the toxic water" he added "There's much better ideas, to put one million people back to work with renewable climate jobs. But they're not listening to anyone about fracking, or working conditions or anything else. We should be coming together to drive this Government from office."
With one of the main themes of the march being Save Our NHS, Sarah Davies who has been a midwife for over thirty years, spoke of the need to defend the NHS…
"I'm horrified and outraged at this Social Care and Health Act, the actions of this Government have been completely anti democratic" she said "They promised no top down reorganisation which was immediately broken. We have to rise up together against this travesty."
She gave the example of Lewisham Hospital where campaigners have pushed back its closure, and it was a positive, fitting end to the rally and the beginning of the march into Manchester.
Around six hundred people joined the Salford feeder march, including the exquisitely dressed `frocking not fracking' posse, the Salford Against the Bedroom Tax group, trade unionists from Bolton and Salford , mental health campaigners USUC, and Salford Against The Cuts and NHS SOS groups.
Meanwhile, Salford Labour Party (bar Cllr Jim King) chose not to meet at Bexley Square, opting to go straight to Manchester, where the Salford Star spotted City Mayor Ian Stewart actually protesting, having put out an official press release a couple of weeks ago condemning "rent-a-crowd placards and megaphones"…(see previous Salford Star article - click here)
"Better to sit down and discuss any issues like sensible adults, rather than resort to the usual rent-a-crowd placards and megaphones, which do not set a good example for our young people" the Salford Mayor had stated.
Only when it's about your policies, Mr Mayor?
Part 2 - The Manchester March...badgering the Tories and more... click here