May Day in London

by New Worker correspondent

THOUSANDS of people assembled in the windy spring sunshine on Clerkenwell Green last Friday for the annual May Day parade and rally organised by the South and Eastern Region Trade Union Congress.

The green was packed with trade unionists of all shades, members of left, socialist and communist parties with the usual big and colourful turnout from London Turkish and Kurdish communities.

A great throng of activists were greeting old friends, catching up with news and debating the coming general election and the need for a revolutionary strategy.

The Marx Memorial Library, in Clerkenwell Green, had opened its doors and offered tours of the historic building, where Lenin, in exile in London, had edited Iskra.

The extensive archives in the basement contain rare and old copies of some of the first ever trade union and socialist publications along with their modern counterparts.

There were strong contingents with banners from RMT, Unite, Unison, GMB, PCS and the Prison Officers Association and a jazz band led the march through Holborn, Archway, and the Strand to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

The New Communist Party Central Committee banner was there among hundreds of other red banners and flags and NCP comrades made good sales of the New Worker.

One group of RMT members joined the march as it passed the headquarters of the company Sodexo in Southampton Row where they had been holding a protest picket in support of sacked union organiser Petrit Mihaj.

Petrit Mihaj worked for global outsourcing giant Sodexo for 10 years, working in the catering department on Sodexo’s contract with London Underground.

Following a high-profile campaign to organise the workforce, Petrit was subjected to disciplinary action and was eventually dismissed.

The union successfully brought tribunal claims on his behalf, establishing that Petrit had been unfairly dismissed for his trade union activities. Despite the wins in the employment tribunal, union- busting Sodexo refused to reinstate or re-engage.

As the marchers entered Trafalgar Square they were handed paper plates painted red and yellow to represent Van Gogh sunflowers by workers at the National Gallery who are striking against privatisation plans and for the reinstatement of their union rep, Candy Udwin, who has been suspended.

She was one of the many speakers at the rally who included TUC assistant general secretary Paul Nowak, Steve Hedley of the RMT and Onay Kassab from Unite.