100 trade unionists and community campaigners gathered on the steps of Lewisham Town Hall on July 14th to join a lobby called by Lewisham NUT to protest against a proposed £60M cuts package being discussed by the Labour Mayor and Cabinet.
NUT “Education Cuts Never Heal” placards were displayed alongside UNITE and UCU banners. GMB, UNISON, ATL, NASUWT and PCS members also took part. Staff from the libraries service, threatened with five closures, and Lewisham Education, facing immediate job cuts, were well represented. Campaigners protesting about cuts to disability care also spoke alongside trade unionists.
The size and depth of the proposed cuts is unprecedented. One in four council jobs could go, wrecking the local economy and job prospects for young people.
The message was clear from all the speakers – that we weren’t going to meekly accept these cuts forced on us to pay for the debts racked up by reckless speculators. Calls for co-ordinated national strike action were cheered. Demands for the Labour councillors to refuse to make these cuts but to join with us in opposing the Government’s attacks were also applauded.
Unfortunately, it seems that Steve Bullock, the Labour Mayor wasn’t listening. He told protestors to ‘get real’ before muttering obscenities at hecklers.
Perhaps Sir Steve had been rattled by the size of the turnout at a protest that had only been organised at short notice. It certainly showed that there is a growing mood to fight these cuts and will have helped to raise the confidence of workers who, up to now, have only been told that there is no alternative to hundreds of job losses. It is the Mayor who needs to recognise the reality that cuts of this size must – and will – be opposed by trade unions and local communities.
In chairing the Lobby, I made clear that this protest was only just the start. The NUT was committed to bringing together trade unions and community campaigns to defend jobs and services. When the Mayor returns to decide these cuts in November, he can expect a mass lobby and march that will only be even bigger, louder and more determined than tonight’s protest.