Union members from across the North East have taken part in the annual May Day march and rally this weekend.
Marching through the streets of Newcastle city centre, more than 300 people joined in the Tyne and Wear May Day March and Rally on Saturday.
This year the rally took time to pay tribute to the lives of leaders Bob Crow and Tony Benn who died earlier this year.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), died suddenly on March11 , and Tony Benn died just a few days later. Both were well known in the region and had addressed the May Day rally on different occasions.
Martin Levy, chair of Tyne & Wear May Day Committee, organisers of the annual march and rally, said: “I started the rally by recalling those we have lost, Bob Crow and Tony Benn, as well as local people.
“I called for a round of applause instead of a minute’s silence and that was respected. It was more a celebration of their lives, similar to what happened in London on May Day for their rally.”
He added: “I don’t think mood was sombre, while they are a great loss their work is remembered and people want to carry on in terms of what they achieved.”
Speakers at the Tyne & Wear event included Beth Farhat, TUC regional secretary, Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Palestine Solidarity Campaign honorary president Betty Hunter, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) regional secretary Pete Wilcox and Sam Fairbairn, national secretary of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
Those taking part assembled at Princess Square and marched along Northumberland Street before turning to cross the Central Motorway for the rally at City Stadium, in Shieldfield. Music on the march came from Backworth Colliery Band, while local musicians Mike Hirst, Tony Bengtsson, Simma and Ron Brown performed at the rally.
Mr Levy said: “It all went very well and Peter Wilcox from the FBU was there because they were on strike that day. He was on first and he got a lot of support.
“There were about 300 people who took part and it was a new venue for us because Exhibition Park was not available for us this year but we had a good show going up Northumberland Street.”
Both Bob Crow and Tony Benn were very much associated with ongoing campaigns against the Government’s austerity policies, and along with the traditional themes of peace and solidarity with working people throughout the world, this was a focus for the rally.
Mr Levy said: “Beth Farhat from the TUC spoke about the economy and how it seems to be showing recovery but it is not affecting most working people and the food banks, zero hours contracts and how the wealthy are seeing their incomes doing quite well.
“The NUT have also been campaigning and Kevin Courtney was very forthright when he spoke. There are real concerns affecting teachers.”