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by Luke James and Conrad Landin
in central London
TWO MILLION people defied Tory strike ban threats yesterday to come out fighting against poverty pay — and PCS union leader Mark Serwotka warned the government it was “just the beginning.”
Mr Serwotka rallied a sea of teachers, firefighters, council workers and civil servants in Trafalgar Square in his first major speech since recovering from heart surgery.
He said he hoped ministers would “finally feel the humanity and compassion in their Tory bones” to lift the pay freeze forcing workers below the poverty line.
But he conceded that is unlikely and urged unions to learn the lessons of the 2011 pensions dispute that “fizzled out” after a two-million strong one-day strike.
Mr Serwotka told the crowds from Nelson’s Column: “Today is starting something that the government must understand will get bigger and bigger.
“Today has been fantastic but if we need to do more, we must do more.”
The civil servants’ union leader called for an urgent meeting of trade unions to “ensure that further action is planned and co-ordinated and gets bigger and bigger.”
Workers across Britain, who have seen their pay slashed by up to 20 per cent over the last five years, took part in over a thousand picket lines at town halls and schools.
Unite national officer Fiona Farmer said the minimum wage will surpass the lowest local government workers’ pay on October 1 without a pay rise.
“If the economy is in recovery then our members deserve some of that,” she demanded.
Unions reported that four thousand schools were closed completely, while 2,000 more were partially closed as teachers and support staff walked out over pay and pension cuts.
And thousands of striking staff and their supporters packed public squares for rallies in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth and Brighton as well as London.
Taxi and van drivers sounded their support as a colourful parade of strikers swamped the streets of central London on the march from BBC’s Broadcasting House.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said it was a “magnificent strike.”
He told them: “You know that we should do this again. And you know that we should do this again soon.
“What we see today is just an inkling of the power that rests in the hands of working people if we only realise it.”
Firing a warning shot down Whitehall to Con-Dem ministers, he said: “We’re not giving up and we’re not going away.”
September could be the next date for action if the second ever NHS strike is staged.
Unison London secretary Linda Parks said her union’s health executive were meeting next week to discuss balloting NHS staff after they rejected a another pay freeze.
She said the pay freeze was “not because employers can’t afford it but because this government have a deliberate attempt to hold down our wages.”
She added: “We had no choice to come out today.
“If necessary we will continue to campaign through to the general election and beyond.”
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