Thousands of striking workers marched through central London on the day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his first Budget.
Teachers, civil servants and other workers descended on Trafalgar Square for a combined rally on Wednesday, which union leaders claimed was attended by at least 40,000 people.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) members – wearing red beanie hats embroidered with the union’s logo – were led from Embankment station, down Whitehall and to the square by a marching drum band and four people carrying a giant yellow balloon.
Members of the National Education Union (NEU) and British Medical Association (BMA) joined them there, waving placards, blowing whistles and listening to speeches from union leaders and MPs.
Some teachers carried signs reading “pay up” and attacking Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for being in the “bottom set”.
Emmanuel Adebayo, a 36-year-old primary school teacher from Haringey, north London, told the PA news agency conditions had deteriorated so much he had considered quitting.
“At the moment working conditions are really poor, we don’t have glue sticks to offer and we can’t take the children on trips,” he said.
“This isn’t the experience I had growing up and I don’t want this to be all that my pupils have access to.
“I have considered leaving teaching but I love my job. That’s why I’m here today, to make sure that things are better for other teachers to come.”
Hannah David, who works for an arms-length cultural body in Bristol and is the chair of PCS’s south west region, said Government policies were “destroying lives”.
She told PA: “If there is no movement from Government on its policies that are destroying lives, then we’re going to have to keep doing this.
“I feel really vulnerable as someone who could have started off and had a good future with a steady job and maybe a good pension to look forward to.”
David Nicholson, 53, a Border Force officer at Gatwick Airport, said the Government should prepare for industrial action to escalate if it does not give PCS members the 10% pay rise they are demanding.
He said: “It’s not being able to afford the things you should be able to afford and just the fact that the employers and the Government don’t seem to care.
“I think the strike action will escalate. The PCS is going to be voting for additional strike action later in the month and my view is that it is going to get a bigger mandate that it has got now.
“Nothing is being done and there have been no offers at all.”