Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 16:34 UK

Workers join demonstration against public sector cuts

March against public sector cuts in London
Organisers said that a minimum of 5,000 people took part

Thousands of public sector workers have joined a demonstration in London to protest against the prospect of cuts.

Ahead of the general election, trade unionists, pensioners, students and other campaigners marched to condemn reductions in jobs and services.

All three main parties have conceded that job losses will result from cuts in public sector budgets.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said ordinary people were "paying the price" for the failure of bankers.

'Sharp end'

A spokeswoman for the trade union said "at least 5,000" people took part in the London demonstration.

Marchers chanting "no ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts" were led through the streets by a brass band.

Organisations supporting the event ranged from the Disability Alliance and British Medical Association.

A rally in Trafalgar Square was addressed by trade unionists including Len McLuskey of Unite, Mark Serwotka, of Public and Commercial Services union and Dot Gibson, of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC).

Jane Bennett-Powell
The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell in central London
The blue sky and the brass band brought a holiday feel to Trafalgar Square.

But gradually the tourists found themselves sharing the steps and the benches with people fearful of job losses.

The man with a 6ft-diameter helium balloon with Unison's name on it explained to a family from Sweden his fears about cuts in public sector budgets.

A trio of Lewisham women, who have given a lifetime of service to the NHS, complained about the creeping privatisation of health care.

A pensioner for Medway said he needed £165 a week for basic necessities: the state pension was £70 short.

As the clouds drifted over and the speeches finished, the demonstrators sauntered away and the tourists had the square to themselves again.

Glasgow protest against cuts

Parties accept future job losses

Doug Rooney, president of the TUC, told the rally that all those in attendance "must make the case for jobs and skills, decent pay and pensions, public services, generous welfare and benefits, and social justice, equality and fairness".

Frank Cooper, president of the NPC, said it should not be "those at the sharp end who suffer" as a result of the financial crisis.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the demonstration was non-political and attacked politicians for failing to be transparent over cuts.

The GP, based in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, said: "There is a lot of rhetoric in terms of protecting the NHS but we are gravely concerned by any potential cuts after the election."

Mr Prentis added: "There has never been a more urgent time to show our support, as the current economic recession shows that we cannot rely on the private sector to provide our essential needs.

"The result of the failure of the private sector is that ordinary people are paying the price, while the bankers retire to their guarded homes with their multi-million pound pensions."

Jerry Nelson, of the GMB union, said: "A decent society is one that recognises and invests in pensions, health care and education, but this is clearly now under threat."

Unison said about 2,500 people took part in another demonstration in Glasgow, which was attended by STUC general secretary, Grahame Smith, and heads of the Scottish wings of PCS and Unison.

The opening days the election campaign have seen Labour and the Tories clash over the planned 1% National Insurance (NI) rise next year, with each saying the others' stance on this will lead to job losses.

The Conservatives have said vacant posts will be axed in order to meet their £12bn savings target next year but have ruled out any compulsory redundancies.

Treasury Minister Stephen Timms has warned that there "will be some job losses, without a doubt", stemming from the government's own efficiency drive.

And Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Spokesman Ed Davey has said it was "dishonest" to pretend there would not be job losses over the next four years.



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