L&E's regional chair, Jim Kelly's views from the huge European Trades Union Council demonstration in Brussels.
Last autumn the TUC organised a demonstration in Manchester protesting the piecemeal dismantling of our NHS. Our movement mobilised upwards of 50,000 people from all over the country to march past the Tory conference. Our region alone organised over 1,000 members on trains and coaches from all parts of the London & Eastern area. Yet not one national newspaper, with the exception of The Morning Star, reported the huge, lively demonstration. The BBC was silent and there was scant coverage on other channels.
It seems that this self-censorship is now becoming the norm.
On Friday the European Trades Union Council organised a huge rally in Brussels on a weekday to protest against the EU wide austerity policies being implemented by the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF.
The theme of the demonstration was; A new path for Europe, Fighting for investment, quality jobs and equality.
I was invited to participate with many other Unite members, including leading EC delegates from L&E region, such as Richard Allday our regional EC Territorial delegate, James Mitchell from Passenger Transport and Dennis Wilson from FDT. I was really astonished that the march attracted nearly 100,000 workers from all over Europe. Banners from unions in the old Eastern Bloc were widely represented, including Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia, to name but a few. The march was extremely lively, colourful and loud, with many young trade union members represented.
I was especially pleased to see representatives of our brothers and sisters in Greece, where austerity has been implemented for far longer and where the trade unions are still fighting back. Many of you will have heard Vivi Paschali, from the Greek public sector union EDEDE, who spoke at our London NHS conference on March 22nd, and it was great to see her union represented, along with others from Greece.
The march took nearly 3 hours and brought Brussels to a standstill. Many commentators say our movement is dead or irrelevant, if this were the case why does the press systematically censor our actions? The only answer is that Europe’s trade union movement is still fighting austerity and is the last bulwark against the European wide neo liberal race to the bottom which is being imposed by governments across Europe, in most cases, without any democratic mandate. The Con-Dem Coalition is the UK is the most obvious example.
Unite was not the only UK union represented, FBU, RMT and CWU all had contingents. I felt proud to be marching and protesting with my European comrades, but I was disgusted that our “free” press was once again silent on such an important protest. Yet again, the fear that British people may be receptive to our argument that another world is possible exposes their lie that there is no alternative.