Impact spent today following the 5,000 public sector workers who were protesting in the city centre against government cuts to pension funds.
At 11:30 this morning, thousands of public-sector workers, including university staff, left the Forest Recreation Ground to march through Nottingham city centre. The ‘N30’ demonstration marched down Mansfield Road and past the Victoria Centre into Market Square then on through Chapel Bar to gather outside the Nottingham Playhouse and the Albert Hall Conference Centre at approximately 12:30pm. While the majority of the protesters then dispersed, a few hundred attended either the rally inside the Albert Hall or watched footage from a big screen outside the theatre.
A number of Unions were represented including, among others, the UCU, NUT, ATL and PCS. Nottingham’s TUC march paralleled others around the country, including those in Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester which saw 20,000 attendees. According to the BBC, as many as two million British public sector workers walked out today. In Nottinghamshire, 380 schools shut as a consequence.
Nottingham protesters were optimistic about the impact of today’s march. A local A-level philosophy teacher argued that in light of government cuts people would “start asking more questions” and the protest was “consciousness raising”. He hoped that young people would see that “The demonstrators are not black-flag anarchists or loonies. They are ordinary people.” He was also concerned young people were being misled. “When they finish [college or university], they will be on low pay and short-term contracts and they won’t be able to own property.”
Another member of the march, and a lecturer at the University’s school of nursing, was critical of the pensions settlement offered by the government: “It’s not not fair. It’s not right and it’s not good, particularly for lower paid workers.” He reflected positively on the turnout, adding it was “bigger than” previous marches he had seen in the city.
A number of bystanders were also on strike. One teaching assistant was particularly sympathetic to the protesters’ motives: “The government is going to take the holidays off me and £3000 to £5000 a year. I’m going to have work five hours a week more, pay £30 extra for child care and now they’re changing my pension on top of that. The impact is huge.” A striking member of the local authority spoke of similar concerns: “We’re going to have two years of no pay rise and now we’re going to have two more years. I already took a £1500 pay cut last year, this year £500 and next year we expect a £1000. My wife’s in the public services as well.”
As the march passed through the city centre, it traversed the edges of Occupy Nottingham. A recent graduate from Nottingham Trent, who has lived in the camp since day one, accused the council of attempting to bypass the occupation by rerouting the march across Upper Parliament Street. Many of the occupiers and protesters showed their support for one another.
The locals were mostly in favour of the march. A middle-aged man commented: “I’m in favour of them all striking if they’re not getting the right money.” Others were more critical. A group of school girls waiting for the 36 in Market Square argued: “All we want is a bus.”
A rally rounded off the days events in Albert Hall at 1pm. A few hundred union members congregated to listen to speakers including the host Paul Williams, a member of PCS. Speakers thanked the police for their presence, alluded to the public dissent throughout Europe and reflected on the day’s action: “This is a fantastic day for us, for public services and trade unionism, but it is a day that shouldn’t have had to happen.”