TUC March for the Alternative: the best banners

“As a Braille reader I think these cuts are dotty!”

Five hundred thousand demonstrators gathered in central London on Saturday to protest against cuts to public services by the coalition. Here is a selection of some of the best banners. Add your own choices in the comments.

Demonstrators in the rain

Not blind to the costs of the coalition's cuts.

A young demonstator and her mother watch the TUC rally in Hyde Park. (Getty Images)

Robin Hood Jr and Robin Hood Sr watch the TUC rally in Hyde Park.

"Meet your Big Society, Mr Cameron"

A demonstrator warns David Cameron that he should be careful what he wishes for.

The Prime Minister and the Iron Lady. Sort of.

Estimates of the number of demonstrators ranged from 250,000 to 500,000. Even David Cameron turned up. And he brought a friend. Not a banner, but a good effort.

A recession-hit demonstrator.

The cuts hit protesters hard. (Paul Parkinson)

There are bargains to be had in the recession. (Paul Parkinson)

With so many cuts, there are some bargains to be had. (Paul Parkinson)

Erudite political commentary.

Two children make their feelings felt about the coalition leadership outside the Ritz on Saturday. (Jason Stamper)

He doesn't sleep. He waits.

Another child makes his point clear. (Jason Stamper)

Tesco value

One protester skewers the coalition's plans for a cut-price welfare state.

(All images Getty unless stated otherwise)

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.