“Is a new world possible?”
asked Ian Scott, introducing Birmingham’s May Day event on Saturday 4th May.
He described the origins of International Workers’ Day as: ‘”Standing on the shoulders of others”, those that have worked hard for change before us; the eight-hour working day, for example. Organised labour never has never been welcomed, and it is incumbent on us to build a better future.
The guest speaker, Arthur Scargill, was sadly unable to attend due to illness, but John Tyrell, President of the Socialist Labour Party, spoke in his place. He remembered 1972, when 50,000 trade union members marched at Saltley gate in support of the miners. It was a lesson in solidarity.
Bridget Green, from W.A.S.P.I. (Women Against Pension Injustice) noted that since its introduction for men and women in 1909, the state pension age has been raised twice, forcing many to continue in work. By 2011, pension reforms meant women, expecting to retire aged 60, having to continue to work now until they are 66 (rising incrementally for younger workers). She described it as “like running a marathon, and hitting the wall”.
Mandy Buckley spoke on behalf of the Birmingham Enablement care workers. She announced how it is now 24 months since the strike with Birmingham city council started, when they brought in part time hours. The workforce, mainly low paid women, feel “bullied, patronised, and ground down”, but on a positive note they have raised 185,000 donated by public and unions towards strike pay.
John Dunn, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, spoke passionately about the 35th anniversary of battle of Orgreave, and how he suffered from concussion after being hit by police during the demonstration. The Orgreave campaigners want an apology from the Government for how they were treated, after the request for a public inquiry was declined by Amber Rudd. John showed how people are “Still here and still fighting”. He paid tribute to workers fighting McDonald’s; to people on zero contracts; and to Jeremy Corbyn. He hoped we would be” Moving forward to socialism – Solidarity!”
There were some excellent musical contributions. The song which moved me most was “An Orgreave song – a beautiful day in the summer” a protest song in tribute to Orgreave, performed by Steve Booton & The Free Radicals. A fitting song, with the general theme of the day “You can fall but you must not lie down”.
Clarion ended the proceedings with a set of rousing songs, including “The Internationale”. Jane summed up our performance perfectly: “That’s how to send people home after a meeting!”