HUNDREDS of public-service trade unionists marched through Barry at the weekend protesting outside the offices of local MP and Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns.
The colourful and lively demonstration, headed by a Scottish pipe band, was organised by Unison Cymru Wales and supported by contingents from Unite, GMB and UCU.
They called on Mr Cairns to stand up for Wales in Budget discussions or make way for someone who will. Unison regional secretary Margaret Thomas told a rally in the town’s King Square that her general secretary Dave Prentis had written to the Secretary of State asking to discuss the union’s Pay Up Now initiative. “He didn’t even bother to reply,” she reported.
Ms Thomas’s effort to meet Mr Cairns with a delegation of his constituents to explain the impact on communities in Wales of Tory government cuts was then spurned “because he couldn’t find the time to meet us.”
The Unison regional secretary declared this response “not acceptable,” adding: “We will keep knocking at that door.” Labour county councillor Sandra Perkes pointed out that reducing services increases stress on staff and users.
“We need Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 and this despicable government and current Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns gone,” she concluded.
Former Wales and Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall warned that the Tory government posed a “massive dark shadow across this country.”
Listing public service jobs, including essential NHS posts from doctor to cleaner, he demanded respect for the work they do, saying:
“If Cairns doesn’t believe in people like you, he shouldn’t be in the job.” Longstanding Welsh minister Jane Hutt expressed pride in being Barry’s Assembly Member, “but we need a Labour MP for Barry.”
She contrasted Westminster spending cuts with continued Welsh government funding of free prescriptions, bus passes, school breakfasts, the education maintenance allowance and school capital building programme.
Wales TUC president Mike Jenkins spoke out against the Tories’ “pick and mix” approach to public service pay, “with a rise for some but not for others.”
He urged the government to let employers, unions and pay review bodies work together to “do what’s right.”