Wednesday, April 26, 2006

7,000 march in Sheffield (1973)

7,000 Ancillary Workers March in Sheffield

By Hector Mackenzie COHSE No. 2 Regional Secretary

COHSE Journal "Health Services" May 1973

On 16 March the Yorkshire Co-ordinating Committee decided that it was time to carry the battle for justice for ancillary members a stage further - to the streets of the major cities. The time was felt to be opportune because of the increasing number of messages of support from trade unionists out-side the Health Service and the anticipated support from the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council. It was time the public got the message,

To support the planned demonstration march and rally it was decided that there
should be a twenty-four-hour stoppage of work at all hospitals in
Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham. Barnsley members were at the time already involved in strike action with stoppages of longer duration.

The subsequent demonstration on 23 March turned out to be one of the largest ever seen in the city of
Sheffield - estimates put the numbers marching as high as 7,000. In addition to the unions directly involved in the dispute, there was strong support from other South Yorkshire unions, both from industry and from the mines.

Confederation members from
Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham arrived in their coach loads to strengthen the huge turnout from the Sheffield branches.

The marchers left the assembly point at the Wicker Goods Yard in
Sheffield and at no time during the next half hour could the tail end of the march be seen from the front: in fact, two rallies had to be hurriedly organised when the march terminated at the city hall, as the numbers involved exceeded all expectations. Speakers had to dash from the hall to address the thousands thronging

on the steps outside. Terry Mallinson, COHSE National Officer addressed demonstrators, along with Alan Fisher on NUPE and officers of the other ASC

unions. Speeches of support were made by officers and branch officers of many other unions, too.

The following day saw demonstrators taking to the streets of Leeds and Hull

The rally after the Leeds meeting was chaired by Sid Ambler, COHSE NEC member, and members were again addressed by Terry Mallinson and Alan Fisher.

The weather was kind to the demonstrators at Sheffield and Leeds, but by the time the Hull demonstration was due to move off, it had very definitely taken a turn for the worse. Spirits were not dampened, however, and after the march, the rally was addressed by the indefatigable Terry Mallinson and by John Prescott MP. More demonstrations were to follow - Newcastle on 31 March 1973 and Doncaster on 6 April 1973.

For people who are not traditional marchers, our members certainly made their

presence felt and the forest of banners placards and posters made an impressive

sight in all these cities. Leaflets setting out the ancillary staffs case were handed out to the public and the demonstrations were a triumph for organisers and marchers alike.