Protesters in Hull hit the streets against P&O's sacking of 800 workers, reports John Westmoreland
Some 250 protesters assembled at King George Dock, where the P&O ferry Pride of Hull lies. The march aimed to get onto the ship, but the offices and entry to the gangway were locked. No one was at home, although the hammering on the door would have roused the dead.
There were many union banners at the event. It was especially good to see a delegation of six Actavo scaffolders bringing their solidarity while they await the outcome of talks about their futures. Delegations of firefighters, council workers, and a large contingent of RMT members gave the demo real weight. A delegation from the Prison Officers’ Association was cheered when they marched to the demo.
Protesters had come from as far away as Scunthorpe, Doncaster, and Sheffield and it made an impressive crowd for a lunchtime demo.
Anger at P&O was palpable, and it was expressed well by a small group of speakers from RMT, Hull Trades Council, and the Labour Party.
Hull Labour Party has put out a statement declaring total support for the sacked workers and has demanded their reinstatement on the ship that bears the city’s name. Hull East MP, Karl Turner, vowed to P&O that this dispute would not end until the workers got their jobs back.
Ed Miliband said the Tories should make P&O a ‘pariah company’ and take away their license to trade until the workers were reinstated. He possibly went a bit far when he said that Boris Johnson should be at the demonstration ‘showing solidarity to the P&O workers’ (gasps).
Joe from the Trades Council went further. He called for the nationalisation of P&O and any company that used bullyboy tactics against the workers. He got a massive cheer.
Talking to people at the end it is clear that everyone is wising up to the gangster tactics of the corporations, and many felt that solidarity has to mean more. We have to hurt the bosses.
RMT officer Billy Jones said, “We can’t let them pick us off one by one. They are out to break the union and we need more than words. Other ferry companies are watching what is going on, and make no mistake if P&O gets away with it then others will do the same. We have to think about taking joined-up strike action and show we mean business.”
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John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.
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