Several hundred protestors joined the march & rally that had been called by WB&DTUC & UNISON West Midlands (Saturday 28 October 2006) in protest against continued cuts in NHS services and jobs. Our Region has suffered from hospital closures, mass compulsory redundancies, reductions in beds, down grading, cuts in services and privatisation.
Secretary WB&DTUC Nick Kelleher said: What began as a Wolverhampton NHS demo blossomed into a full scale anti-privatisation demo as it was joined by trade unionists from across the city and from the council Older Peoples Homes campaign and campaigners to save an Ashmore Park school.
Midlands TV gave excellent coverage filming UNISON Health full-time official, Pete Lowe who said the march was to make clear that people would not tolerate public service cuts. He was backed by staff nurse Andy Goodall who said cuts would put a strain on the service and that morale is already very low. Three hundred jobs are to be cut at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton in a bid to save £8m.
The City centre came to a halt and shoppers left the market to watch when they heard the Azaad Dhol players and the hundreds of whistles that accompanied the protesters’ chants! Many children dressed in Halloween costumes to make it a colourful as well as lively demonstration.
Residents, families, supporters and workers from the four Wolverhampton Council Older Peoples Homes joined the march to the Civic Centre for a rally. They have helped collect over 10,000 signatures during the consultation period in order to convince the council to change its mind. The Labour-led council is due to make their decision in early November.
Speakers included: Roger McKenzie Midlands TUC Secretary, Adrian Turner UNISON General branch Secretary, Pete Lowe UNISON West Midlands, Nick Kelleher WB&D TUC Secretary and Mark Bibb, campaign leader for the Save Danesmore Park school. He said `` Everyone thought it was a great day and well worth it. I am really pleased we were given the opportunity to join you.``
International greetings were received from South African health service trade union DENOSA, as well as from local Amicus, GMB, NUT and UNISON branches.
A message from Tony Navas, President of the Caracas District of the Venezuelan Health Union, got the biggest cheer, ``we express our solidarity with all Wolverhamptonworkers and patients threatened by the creeping privatisation of the National Health Service and proposed budget cuts. Our union, Sirtrasalud, is in full solidarity with the protest against these neo-liberal privatisation policies, since free health care is a basic human right and not a `consumer product` to be sold as merchandise. Venceremos (We Shall Overcome)``
Health workers, care workers and parents were interviewed by the press. The protest received blanket coverage on all local radio news and even got a sympathetic front page report in the Express & Star, the local rag.
A UNISON Care Worker said after the demo ``I’ve never been on a demonstration and to be honest I’ve stopped watching the news because I want to put my foot through the TV! But I’m really, really glad I joined in because when I got home I really felt that I had done something useful. I’ve gone out and said that I don’t agree with things. I want to go again!``
Wolverhampton, Bilston & District TUC was asked to help co-ordinate the demo and rally the UNISON Region and received warm thanks for its efforts. This was only possible by solidarity shown the many local trade unionists of the unions affiliated that did so much to help make the day such a great success.
Nick Kelleher said; ``The success of this protest shows the reasons why trade union councils were formed. Concerted action in unity with other workers achieves so much more than can be done in isolation. We were glad to be able to lend our expertise and resources to back these important campaigns. Since 1865 Wolverhampton trade unionists have been doing the same and we will continue the fight. There is no victory without struggle.``