Over six thousand teachers and lecturers showed their support for fair pensions for all by marching through Central London today (28 March).
Marchers filled the length and breadth of Malet Street in Bloomsbury, to listen to speeches before heading off to the Department for Education in Westminster. Addressing the crowds in Malet Street, NUT Executive member Alex Kenny said that the Union had received messages of support from across the country. Mary Compton had travelled from Wales with the NUT Cymru banner and warned Ministers ‘we aren't going to let you take our pensions and introduce regional pay’. Emma and Caroline, two classroom teachers from Tower Hamlets also addressed the rally and reminded everyone that ‘a fair pension is a right not a privilege’.
The author and broadcaster Owen Jones said the Government wanted to make public servants pay for a crisis they had nothing to do with whilst ‘what we really need is action to drag private pensions up not drag public sector pensions down’. Dot Gibson sent solidarity from the National Pensioners Convention and told marchers ‘what you are doing today is for pensioners everywhere’. Jeremy Corbyn MP gave his best wishes to marchers and questioned the Government’s priorities when they had announced last week a budget give away of £3 million to the richest in the country.
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, said he was proud to see so many people standing up for themselves and for education. Ministers were desperately out of touch about the working lives of teachers. The NUT would never sign up to these pensions proposals and wanted to work and fight together with all our sister unions, including ATL and NASUWT.
The marchers then weaved their way through Central London and enjoyed vast support from passing members of the public, the fire brigade and Ford workers who were protesting about their own pensions in Downing Street. After passing the Houses of Parliament they arrived at the DfE, where there were some further speeches.
Gail Cartmail from UNITE said Ministers have no mandate for cutting our pensions and they should remember that ‘we here are the people of Britain and the big society’. John McDonnell MP congratulated the NUT and UCU for the ‘tremendous mobilisation for the action’, whilst Mark Serwotka sent solidarity greetings from the PCS. Liam Burns, President of the NUS said ‘your struggle is our struggle’ and reminding people of the hike in fees and axing of the EMA said that an ‘education system should be based on ability not your bank balance’. The penultimate speaker was Kathy Taylor, President-elect of UCU. Kathy said ‘we won't accept a vicious attack on our pensions. Ministers must return to negotiating table.’
Before delivering a letter to Michael Gove at the Department, the final speaker Christine Blower addressed the throng of people outside. The Government’s pensions proposals were nothing short of ‘daylight robbery’. Our campaign required fight across the public and private sector and she reminded people that the level of the state pension is a disgrace. The demonstration drew to a close with Christine saying our campaign would continue and her imploring everyone to defend our pensions.