On June 30th members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), National Union of Teachers (NUT), Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and University and Colleges Union (UCU) went on strike in defence of their pensions. There were picket lines across Nottinghamshire and a sizeable march along Mansfield Road.
Pickets appeared outside schools, job centres, the crown and magistrates courts and even the British Geological Survey in Keyworth. Notts Uncut spent the morning visiting pickets, distributing food, by all accounts receiving a warm welcome.
The march formed up at the Forest Recreation Ground outside the old clubhouse. As might be expected, there were placards and banners from all the participating unions. Unison, the Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) and Unite also had banners on the march, as did Notts Uncut and Notts SOS. many people had also brought home-made placards, some of them clearly having required considerable effort to produce.
The march was started just after 11.30am, by a GMB branded town cryer (no I don't know either?). Marchers made their way down the Mansfield Road, pausing regularly to ensure the march didn't spread out unduly.
Numbers on marches are always difficult to estimate. I have heard figures from NUT officials suggesting there were as many as 2,500. This seems on the high side to me. I was told as we were leaving the Forest that the police estimated the crowd at 1,300-1,500 people, so there's no dispute that there were over 1,000 people. This is not to be sniffed at.
At the bottom of Mansfield Road, the march turned right and into Trinity Square for a rally. This it turns out is not an ideal space, the architecture makes it feel isolated from the rest of the city and the speakers ended up standing on the blocks in the middle of the square, as if they were speaking in the round.
There were speakers from the unions involved, Notts SOS and assorted others. While this was going on, protesters were able to visit campaign stalls around the edge of the square and even had the opportunity to throw wet sponges at "David Cameron".
After around half an hour, some marchers moved on to the rally/meeting in the Albert Hall. The rally at Trinity Square continued for a little longer. At that point some people went on to the Albert Hall and others joined Notts Uncut to visit the usual targets. The police were, as at the last Uncut action, expecting them and stationed outside most of the well-known tax dodgers (Vodafone, Primark, HSBC etc.). While I wasn't there, I did hear that there was a minor scuffle with an agitated member of the public on Clumber Street, but it seems that nobody was injured. By the time I made it to the Albert Hall everything there had come to a close.
For Nottingham this was clearly a significant day politically. It is to be hoped that the unions can build on this first day and move forward. Of course, for teachers, the fast approaching summer holidays are a major impediment to action. Nevertheless, with other public sector unions making noises about balloting for action in the autumn, there is a real opportunity to tackle the government's attack on pensions and the wider austerity agenda.
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