Last Sunday, along with 35,000 other people I marched in Manchester to protest against the austerity measures being inflicted on the British people by the Coalition government. The march started and finished up at First Street, and was characterised by good humour and a feeling of solidarity on what was a very mild and largely sunny October afternoon.
Most of the marchers were trade unionists, with members from Unison, Unite, The GMB, NUT and PCS, mixing with other protest groups. The Green Party was represented mainly by members from Manchester, Carlisle and the Green Left, and a coach came from Chester from our local campaign, Cheshire West Against the Cuts, which is supported by West Cheshire Trades Council.
One of the biggest issues for the marchers was the attack on public sector pensions. The Tories and their corporate backers, aided by cheerleaders in the right wing press, have managed to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers on the pensions issue. Public sector workers, many of whom are low paid and can expect a pension of only £3,000 per year, have been vilified as 'fat cats', whilst private sector workers have seen their pensions slashed. If the government succeeds in destroying pension provision for the public sector that will make it all the harder to bring back decent pensions for those in the private sector. Public and private sector workers need to support each other on this issue, otherwise millions more will be condemned to poverty in their old age. The Green Party sought to address the pension crisis in its 2010 manifesto by introducing a citizens pension of £300 p.w. for a couple and £170 p.w. for a single person.
The public sector unions are balloting their members for industrial action on pensions to start on November 30th. Its important that all working people support this struggle because it could be the pivotal point where the public really turn against the Coalition government's austerity programme, which is already becoming more unpopular. Cameron is well aware of this and his lacklustre speech at the Tory conference shows that the government is stuck in a hole of its own making with no plan B, rising unemployment, a flatlining economy, and no real idea of how to move the country forward. Never has the alternative I've argued for in this blog been more sorely needed - see here.