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by Peter Lazenby and Conrad Landin
WORKERS must not squander the chance to vote out Britain’s rotten government, trade unionists warned this weekend as thousands took to the streets across Britain to demand an end to exploitation.
May Day rallies were addressed by key movement figures including Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan, who urged electors at a demonstration in Cardiff to “to swallow hard and vote for a Labour government.”
In north-west England a feeder march from Salford joined activists assembling in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. At a rally, speakers included Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack and Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union president Ian Hodson.
Mr Wrack said: “All across the world working people and their organisations are celebrating.
“We need to remember those who are fighting harder conditions than we are — in Istanbul workers were attacked by riot police simply for celebrating May Day.”
He said he hoped the general election on Thursday would see the back of a government which had been destroying public services, “taking our pensions, and wrecking trades union rights.
“Austerity is a programme of robbing working people around the world,” he said.
In Lancaster in Lancashire marchers walked with the slogan: “No to austerity. Defend the fire service, restore NHS budgets, and stop benefits sanctions.”
Demonstrators also took to the streets of Leeds with a march around the city centre followed by a rally in Victoria Gardens.
The interventions from the FBU and POA leaders are significant as neither union is affiliated to the Labour Party.
They follow a warning from TUC assistant general secretary Paul Nowak that May 7 would be an “election that will shape the kind of country we live in for a generation to come.”
"Britain is crying out for change and we need stronger unions to help deliver it,” Mr Nowak told the London May Day demo on Friday.
The Cardiff rally was also addressed by public-sector union PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh, who warned the struggle to defend trade unionism and fight austerity would need to continue after polling day.
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