Around 300 people took part in the Tyne and Wear May Day March and Rally in Newcastle on Saturday.
The event coincided with the 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ international May Day celebrations.
Back in 1890, the international demand was for an eight-hour maximum to the working day. This call united workers in the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and many other countries.
One of the organisers of the Tyneside event, Martin Levy, said:
“There’s a lot of people on zero hours contracts today who would love to get the chance to work eight hours.”
“The march is as relevant today as it was 125 years ago. It’s very important as a statement of the principles of the Trade Union and Labour movement – solidarity, fighting inequality and fighting for social justice.
“These issues don’t just go away.”
Speakers at the event included Christine Payne, general secretary of actors’ union Equity; Ian Mearns, Labour’s candidate for the Gateshead constituency at the forthcoming general election and Andrew Murray, chief of staff of Unite the Union and deputy president of the Stop the War Coalition.
Professor Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, had been due to speak but had to cancel at the last minute.
His place on the platform was taken by Ann Schofield of the Tyneside Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
Those taking part assembled at Princess Square then walked along Northumberland Street and then past St Thomas’s Church towards Exhibition Park, where the rally was held.
Music on the march was provided by the Backworth Colliery Band, while local musicians DrumDin (OK) and The Backyard Rhythm Orchestra performed at the rally.
Mr Levy added:
“This 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ May Day was an opportunity to make clear our opposition to austerity and privatisation, and to express solidarity with all those struggling for a better world, particularly the people of Palestine.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 May 2015
Newcastle stood united against hate as thousands of anti-Pegida protestors marched through the streets of the city this morning.
Anti-fascists, trade unions, religious and community groups, and politicians all turned out to oppose the German “anti-Islamisation” group’s first visit to Britian.
“I wish this wasn’t necessary,” said Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, one of the speakers on the march.
“What we’d like is for Pegida to have Newcastle Unites: Thousands turn out for counter-march against Pegida protest not picked our great city to march in.
“But to see people of all cultures and backgrounds, from across the political spectrum and including many football fans, turn out really shows Newcastle is united against these outsiders.”
Charlie Trotter, 21, a waiter from Morpeth in Northumberland, was among a group carrying a Morpeth 4 Peace banner.
“I came down to help make it known that the people of the North Eats are comfortable with immigration and people of different backgrounds and to show that we need to stand up to the far right,” said Charlie.
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said the number of people at the Newcastle Unites march, which travelled from the gates of the city’s Chinatown, down Gallowgate, and down Newgate Street, was “fantastic.”
“It really shows the solidarity among the people of Newcastle and the North East, and from the perspective that the Pegida protest only had numbers in the low hundreds, and the counter protest had thousands it’s very encouraging,” he said.
“But what I can’t understand is among the Pegida rally there will have been British Nationalists demonstrating alongside proud Europeans – it doesn’t make sense.”
Among the speakers who took to the Newcastle Unites stage was German MEP Arne Lietz, who travelled from Gelsenkirchen.
“For me it is very important to show solidarity and that we are together as Europeans against hate,” he said.
“This Pegida protest will have attracted other groups or individuals who will call themselves Pegida, but many of whom are right wing and nationalist, and who’s hate speak we don’t want to see in the European Union.
“I come from East Germany when I grew up we were singled out for being Christians under the Communist regime. I now want to ensure that we live in a fair Europe with the liberties denied to my own parents.”
The Newcastle Unites march on Newgate street and the Pegida protest on the Bigg Market were kept around 100 yards apart by police cordons and scores of uniformed officers enforcing a “sterile zone.”
It is not yet known if any arrests were made at either protest
> I had hoped to attend myself ( the Newcastle Unites rally, in case you were wondering !) but the effects of bronchitis made worse by a heavy cold dictated otherwise.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Feb 2015
> Pegida supporters (for today, anyway – back to EDL tomorrow). As one comment for this video put it: “Never seen so many inbreed sister fuckers in one place, look like scum sound like scum tramps get a life..”
After the growth of food banks, a clothes bank is now due to be opened on Teesside by an anti-Government organisation.
Teesside Socialist Clothing Bank will open its doors this Saturday, at the John Paul Centre in Middlesbrough after organisers said those on Jobseekers Allowance were sometimes unfairly having their benefits cut.
However that has been countered by the town’s parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party Simon Clarke who said that in fact benefits are being processed more quickly under the Conservative-led government.
One of the organisers of the clothing bank, Anna Thorne, said statistics showed that 46 per cent of dole claimants in Middlesbrough had been sanctioned for being late or missing an appointment for sometimes valid reasons. That can lead to claimants having their benefits cut for six weeks to three months which was causing hardship.
> If that figure is true – and it could well be – that means almost half of benefit claimants in middlebrough have been sanctioned !
She also pointed to cuts at Middlesbrough Borough Council caused by reductions in Government grants, including the fact the council had stopped helping schoolchildren in poverty buy school uniforms to save £13,000 a year.
Free hot food and entertainment will be provided between 11am and 2pm on what will start as a monthly event.
A press release by Teesside Solidarity Clothing Group also criticised the Government saying that:
“The project locates the Government’s vicious austerity agenda as resulting in the most vulnerable suffering the most hardship. Set against a landscape of benefit sanctions and a diminishing welfare state the project emphasises that being hard up is not a crime.”
Conservative parliamentary candidate for Middlesbrough, Simon Clarke, said the clothing bank shouldn’t be used for political point-scoring. He said:
“I welcome any initiative that helps vulnerable people and I wish the new Teesside clothing bank every success. However, it is disappointing that some people involved with this project feel the need to hijack its launch to try to score political points using rhetoric that simply doesn’t square with the facts.
Once again Berwick put up a magnificent display of solidarity in opposing the racist Scottish Defence League and their fascist friends the North East Infidels marching in our streets last Saturday.
After our boisterous but good natured and orderly march up and down the town we held a rally at Marygate. The theme was “whose streets? our streets”, “whose town? our town”, “whose walls?” and so on.
In other words, the town belongs to us, not to shipped in, masked up fascists and racists who came from across Scotland and England to whip up racism in Berwick.
Our final rally at the Guildhall had Jim Herbert introduce a series of speakers: local trades unionists; Berwick Trades Union Council; Unite Against Fascism Scotland; Newcastle “People’s Assembly”; Berwick Migrant Support Group; and local people of no particular affiliation.
The speakers addressed many of the concerns of local people. The trades union council in particular has had some criticism on how best to deal with the fascists. Some have argued that it’s best to ignore them and they’ll eventually go away. And that they are only coming here to seek confrontation.
Many of our speakers, some of whom with a vast experience on this, explained that this is profoundly mistaken. History demonstrates that where they are ignored they grow, they gain confidence and locals inclined to these insidious views, on seeing no opposition, join them.
One of the reasons overtly fascist and racist parties have failed in the UK is precisely because of local opposition initiated by the trades union movement.
Berwick Trades Union Council and the RMT union branch are proud of standing in this fine tradition. To keep Berwick safe, diverse and welcoming “good people”, as Albert Einstein explained, have to do something to oppose evil.
The SDL and NEI have dedicated their hateful existence to attacking Asian people and Muslims. Islamophobia – bigotry against Muslims is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. It tries to divide us by scapegoating one community, just as the Nazis did with Jewish people in the 1930s.
It is vital that we continue to organise, to unite, to make sure they are not allowed to spread their racist and Islamophobic hatred and violence in our community. We have to continue to oppose fascists when they march.
Messages of support were read out, including an anti-fascist message from Sir Alan Beith.
Phil Thompson, Secretary of Berwick & District TUC
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 12 July 2014
> A masterful summing up of the current situation, by John Wight.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are engaged in the widespread bullying and intimidation of benefit claimants in Jobcentres up and down the country.
The evidence can no longer be denied and the union’s leadership must now take steps to educate its members that solidarity is more than just a word on a leaflet during a PCS pay dispute, or else face the accusation of collaborating with the government’s vicious assault on the most economically vulnerable in society under the rubric of austerity.
The upsurge in the number of claimants having their benefits sanctioned for increasingly minor infractions correlates to the upsurge in the demand for the services of the nation’s food banks. This shocking revelation was contained in a report by MPs in January, the result of an investigation by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which called for an independent review into the rules for sanctioning claimants to ensure that the rules are being applied “fairly and appropriately“.
Among its findings the report stated: “Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied.
The report continued: “Some witnesses were concerned that financial hardship caused by sanctioning was a significant factor in a recent rise in referrals to food aid. The report recommends that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by sanctions.”
The majority of Jobcentre staff are members of the 270,000 strong PCS, the sixth largest trade union in the country, which represents the majority of Britain’s civil servants and public sector workers.
The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, has been a high profile and strong critic of the coalition’s austerity policies in recent years, appearing on numerous public platforms and a ubiquitous presence in the mainstream press making the case for an investment led recovery from recession and calling for mass opposition to the cuts that have ravaged the public sector and been accompanied by a concerted campaign of demonisation of the unemployed and economically vulnerable that is unparalleled in its viciousness.
It is a campaign that has largely succeeded in diverting the blame for the worst recession to visit these shores since the 1930s onto the poor. Meanwhile the rich, whose greed lies at the root of the nation’s economic woes, have seen their wealth and incomes increase over the course of the recession, evidence that austerity and economic and social injustice are one and the same.
It is unconscionable that any self respecting trade union would allow its members to engage in the wilful and systematic sanctioning of benefit claimants without meaningful resistance. It flies in the face of the very principle of social solidarity that is the cornerstone of a movement founded on the understanding that the interests of working people – employed and unemployed – are intrinsically the same.
The human despair not to mention humiliation being inflicted on people in the nation’s Jobcentres is evidence that the Tory campaign of dividing working people section by section has borne fruit. It has reached the point where the oppressive atmosphere found in your average Jobcentre is on a par with the oppressive atmosphere associated with a district or sheriff court.
Jobseekers are not criminals and those sanctioning them so readily are not parole officers, yet you could be easily mistaken in thinking they are after spending just a few minutes in a Jobcentre in any town or city up and down the country.
Enough is enough.
This shameful culture of bullying, harassment, and intimidation against the unemployed must be confronted by the leadership of the PCS as a matter of urgency. By no means are all PCS members working in Jobcentres guilty of this shameful behaviour and treatment of claimants – indeed many are low paid workers reliant on various benefits to survive themselves – but enough are involved in the practice to leave no doubt that we are talking about an institutional problem rather than the actions of a few rotten apples.
Making matters worse is the fact that many of those being sanctioned are being trapped due to mental health issues or language issues making them more vulnerable to violating the plethora of rules regarding the obligations they must fulfil when it comes to searching for work. Many are being sanctioned for turning up five minutes late to a scheduled appointment, regardless of the reason why.
The sheer barbarity of this is staggering, plunging people who are already living on the margins into extreme poverty and destitution. In some cases suicide has been the result.
Those PCS members involved would do well to imbibe the words of the American union leader Eugene Debs: “…years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Any trade union member who allows him or herself to be used as an instrument to attack the poor and the unemployed is deserving of contempt. And any trade union leadership that fails to act to prevent it happening is reactionary.
Source – Huffington Post, 25 Feb 2014