The march on the cost of living was a sea of people who better swear deserve to turn the tables.
Thousands came from across the country to march through central London.
Railway workers, cleaners, mothers with posters, fathers with prams – a sea of people who deserve better.
Led by a number of women – general secretaries and other union and community leaders – the most moving moment of Saturday’s Demand Better rally was when two nurses hugged on stage.
Yvonne Thomas, 55, came in from a 14-hour shift as a caregiver and returned to one the next day.
GMB co-organiser Patricia Gumbira, 52, took the stage at the Parliament Square rally alongside her friend.
The women hugged in front of thousands as the crowd cheered.
“I wouldn’t have missed today for anything,” said Yvonne. “This is our voice. I am here to demand better things for our children and future generations. And I will never stop fighting for nurses.”
Patricia said she was there to fight for caregiver sick pay. “Right now a lot of us have to go to work sick because I can’t afford it,” she says. “It’s embarrassing.”
Both women had been through a grueling pandemic. “Delta swept through our nursing home,” Yvonne said.
“Sometimes my manager and I were the only ones there, supporting 24 service users working 14-hour shifts, day after day.
“I was so exhausted I could barely drag myself through the door, but I knew I had to do it.
“In return we got these pathetic badges. Neither of us would wear them. My manager threw them in a drawer.
“Were we worth it? You didn’t even say thank you.
“It really hurts me a lot to think that we couldn’t see anyone while they were party party party. Dos leave, birthday parties. What example are you setting as Prime Minister?”
Patricia said the image of the Queen mourning the loss of Prince Philip stayed with her alone. “Our Queen,” she said.
“Sitting alone in church while a few people celebrate. I am ashamed that these people are still in power in a democratic country.”
After 12 years of austerity, two years of the pandemic and now this one – the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades – speaker after speaker said there was nothing left.
As bills soar, the cost of filling a petrol tank reaches £100 and wages fail to keep up with inflation, millions are being pushed across the abyss into poverty.
The unions are leading the uprising, with strikes planned for the summer, including on the railways, to defend wages and working conditions.
The general secretaries of some of Britain’s most prominent unions took the stage at the rally.
But the audience of thousands heard workers speak from the front as well.
Bella Fashola, 26, spoke passionately about making a living on low wages as an outsourced train cleaner.
“We won’t live in poverty forever,” Bella said. “That’s not going to happen. We’re going to turn the tables.”
Bella was at the rally with other striking train cleaners who work for Churchill at Govia Thameslink Railways, HS1, Southeastern Railways and Eurostar.
The men and women are currently striking with the RMT for a decent wage and basic rights.
She said the way the company has treated her during the pandemic led her to the protest.
“Covid started spreading in Hastings, where I live,” she said.
“I had to take a break from work for six months to look after my mother after she was diagnosed with cancer.”
She says that although she worked for Churchill for more than three and a half years, the company only offered her unpaid sabbatical leave.
“But that’s just my story,” I heard her tell Thursday night at a pre-rally for the New Economics Foundation, where she called on people to join Saturday’s rally.
“During on site visits, I have heard so many stories from my colleagues that are absolutely heartbreaking.
“Full-time workers who go to work all day, cleaning the trains to keep the public safe and disinfecting them.
“Some of them sleep at bus stops at night because they cannot afford to live. It’s absolutely disgusting.
“There is a mother with four children who all have to live in one room.
“We won’t put up with that. I refuse to watch my colleagues struggle to survive instead of living longer.”
For Bella and thousands of others, attending the demonstration was a shot in the arm.
“Standing side by side with comrades today gave us all the fire in our bellies for the fight ahead,” she said. “We demand better.”
Jacqueline Thomas, a Community Union member who works at Llanwern Steelworks, had come all the way from NHS founder Nye Bevan’s hometown of Tredegar in South Wales to march.
“I feel like my whole life we’ve just lost jobs in our community,” she said.
“We lost the mines in the 1980s, we lost all the jobs in Ebbw Vale. Now the government is completely failing to help us decarbonize.
“I always say that steel is at the heart of everything in life – from the surgical knife to the scissors that cut the clothes you wear.
“We need support. Our community is struggling.”
Steelworker Keiran Stonely, 41, is from North Wales where he works for TATA, Color Coating Steel, and is the Unite Branch Secretary.
His wife is an emergency room nurse who has been working through the pandemic.
“There are food banks all over our area,” he said.
“That didn’t exist in my parents’ generation, even though times were tough. People can’t take much more.”
TUC research suggests it hasn’t taken long for real wages to recover from a slump since the Napoleonic Wars.
“Let me say this to Boris Johnson – don’t you dare blame working people for inflation,” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the packed rally.
“Don’t you dare, not after a decade of austerity, privatization and wage cuts. Don’t you dare tell working families that we must endure more pain.”
But the prime minister wasn’t there to see the demo, returning from a Boris-boosting trip to Ukraine and dodging another crisis after his ethics adviser was forced to quit.
Patricia Gumbira, originally from Zimbabwe before making a new life for herself in Birmingham, had another travel suggestion for him. “He’s the one who broke the law,” she said. “Let him go to Rwanda.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/cost-living-march-sea-people-27274408 The march on the cost of living was a sea of people who better swear deserve to turn the tables.