On Saturday, a protest took place on Broad Street, marking International Worker’s Day. Various groups, including the local Trades Union Council, the National Union of Journalists and the Oxford Communist Corresponding Society, took part in a march, followed by a rally against government cuts to public services.
There was a particular focus on the issues of decreasing NHS funding and proposed privatization, and public sector pay freezes and cuts. The event also addressed the issues of the Trident nuclear deterrent, the Royal Mail, and solidarity between workers in the public and private sectors.
Bill McKeith, Assistant Secretary of the Oxford and District Trades Union Council, considered the protest to have been a success, saying that it was “very rousing, with lots of sympathy from the passers-by.” He also went on to praise speakers such as Joan Stewart, from the Oxfordshire Keep Our NHS Public campaign, Chad Croome, from the Communication Workers Union and Caroline Raine from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for their contributions to the event.
Lorna Merry, the leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union’s Tax Justice Campaign also spoke about the effects of pay freezes on the real incomes of tax office employees and the effect that this was having on the effectiveness of the system that enforces payment of taxation.
Daniel Turner, the publicity officer for the OULC agreed with the spirit of the protests, saying that “These protests send out a clear message to the Coalition Government that ordinary people recognise austerity isn’t working for them. The government’s economic plan has proved self-
defeating, and commentators from across the political spectrum rally against George Osborne’s intransigence.”
However, not all were impressed by the protest. One student onlooker described the event as “a bit tiny and pathetic”. Henry Tonks, the secretary of OUCA dismissed the content of the protests, claiming that “economic recovery has not proceeded as swiftly as we would have wished. But we were becalmed by neoliberal economics, of the sort once embraced so amorously by the Labour Party, and the Coalition Government has correctly seen that old-fashioned thrift will get the ship of state sailing again. I might add old-fashioned thrift in partnership with much higher taxation on large businesses and on the rich – a soupcon of noblesse oblige.”