By Ceren Sagir
THOUSANDS of postal workers turned Parliament Square into a sea of pink today as they gathered for a national day of strike action over pay and conditions.
Members of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) from across Britain met outside the Houses of Parliament in central London, despite the near-freezing temperatures, to listen to leaders from the trades union movement as well as their colleagues before marching to Buckingham Palace.
The protesters wore pink hi-vis vests, carried flags and lit flares to represent the CWU logo and chanted “We want [Simon] Thompson out,” demanding the Royal Mail boss steps down.
Politicians such as Labour MPs Richard Burgon, John McDonnell and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn joined the demonstrating workers.
The Royal Mail workers earlier formed picket lines outside their sites across the country and further action is planned for tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.
Speaking at the rally, CWU acting deputy general secretary Andy Furey said its members will not give up on their demands and that solidarity and unity will win.
National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney, whose members are currently balloting on industrial action, brought the rally solidarity from the union, saying that a win for CWU members would be a win for all workers.
He said: “There is a change in mood in this country.
“Working people are waking up and they are saying ‘enough is enough’.”
Mr Courtney said the government was frightened by workers’ solidarity.
TUC general secretary designate Paul Nowak and University & College Union general secretary Jo Grady echoed the sentiment.
Mr Nowak told the crowd: “[The government] are attacking our right to strike. We won’t have it,” and Ms Grady led chants of “union power.”
Transport union RMT general secretary Mick Lynch was welcomed to the stage with loud applause and chants of support for the union’s ongoing strikes.
He said: “For too long, we’ve been too quiet. But what we have now is unity.
“[The government] have been trying to silence us, they hate us because they are scared of us.
“They are scared of the redistribution of wealth and power in this country.”
Mr Lynch said trade unions are the “hope of the working class” and that the movement would deliver change for working people.
A whiteboard was brought onto the stage to represent Mr Thompson in his absence as the protesters erupted in laughter.
Mr Thompson was caught out earlier this week being guided to read pre-scripted responses during a live television interview.
Closing off the speeches, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “People say this is not personal.
“My response is that it is personal to [workers] who are fighting for their jobs and the service they love to provide.”
Paying tribute to all CWU members and supporters, he said: “This is a group of workers this country should be proud of.
“We have a cause here that is absolutely right, we are fighting for things we should be able to get an agreement with Royal Mail on.”
Mr Ward highlighted also how the company’s profits continued to increase while they claimed things were “getting worse.
“We want workers on proper pay, proper jobs, proper contracts, properly paid sick pay,” he said.
The action comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prepares legislation to limit workers’ rights on industrial action and to break strikes through new reforms.
He refused to rule out extending the new anti-strike laws to prevent walkouts by emergency service workers yesterday.
Speaking to the Morning Star after the rally Mr Ward called the plans “outrageous.”
He said: “Workers today, more than ever, need to come together collectively, join a trade union and stand up for themselves.
“We know what the government are doing is wrong, and we’ll make sure we’ll stand with other workers in the struggle that’s coming.
“The spirit and strength of workers is just incredible.”
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