Lobby Coventry Council against cuts

Lobby Coventry Council against cuts

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UNISON members marching against austerity

Coventry TUC has organised a protest outside the council house on Tuesday 23rd, when Coventry Council will set the budget for the next year. The planned budget includes proposals to close libraries and reduce their opening hours, close Edgwick and Eagle St play centres, close public toilets and cut another 1000 council jobs.

UNISON, the largest union on Coventry Council, is calling on the council to pass a legal no-cuts budget, using the £84million+ the council has in reserves to avoid making cuts and to build a campaign to win more money for local services.

The protest is outside the council house from 1pm on Tuesday 23rd February.

Ann Lucas – cut the cake, not our libraries!

Ann Lucas – cut the cake, not our libraries!

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Ann Lucas – pic from Coventry Telegraph website

Coventry’s brilliant Central Library has now been around for 30 years, and staff and service users will be celebrating its birthday on Wednesday 10th February with a number of events. It’s great that the library has been around for so long – but the future of libraries throughout Coventry is under threat, and one of the people behind the planned cuts will also be cutting the birthday cake.

Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith said “It’s ironic that Cllr Ann Lucas is a guest of honour at Central Library’s 30th birthday and cutting a cake, considering she leads the council that’s voted to cut our libraries. I will be there to represent Save Coventry Libraries, to tell Cllr Lucas that she can cut the cake but not our libraries!”

The next meeting of Save Coventry Libraries is on Monday February 15th, 6pm at Central Library. Join the Facebook page here

 

Rally to save Edgwick Play Centre

Rally to save Edgwick Play Centre

save-our-play-centres

Users of Edgwick Play Centre in Foleshill have organised protests on Saturday 30th January against its proposed closure. The centre is used by many local residents, and if closed would be the second local leisure centre to be closed in the area in recent years, after Livingstone Baths was shut by the council.

Lucy O’Donughue, whose daughter Saskia uses the play centre, said “The closure of the play centre will have a very big negative effect/impact on our family. I am a single mum with no transport and limited resources, my daughter is an only child and [the] play centre provides a safe positive, multicultural, tolerant environment for her to play.”

Simon Evans has two children, Kimberly and Rhian, who use the centre regularly. He says “Kimberly’s favourite thing to do is play football, which if not for the play centre she would rarely be able to do.” Kimberly said “Most of these kids like me, have made brilliant friends and [the play centre] has helped with socialisation. It’s so sad.”

Edgwick Play Centre is one of the many services that faces closure by the council. Other services under threat include many libraries, community centres and youth centres. Council workers are also facing job losses and some services may end up being run by volunteers rather than council staff. We think councillors have a choice not to make these cuts – read more about it here.

The protests are on Saturday 30th January, the first is outside Edgwick Play Centre at 12 midday and the second is outside the council house at 2pm. Come along and protest against cuts and closures!

Las Iguanas – stop pinching tips!

Las Iguanas – stop pinching tips!

Workers protest against unfair tipping policies

Workers protest against unfair tipping policies

By Jordan Jefferies

Las Iguanas, a Latin American restaurant chain which has recently opened a branch in Coventry, has become the centre of an ongoing dispute over tipping policies. This dispute comes off the back of the restaurant chain increasing its turnover to £48.3million in 2014, compared with £40.9million in the previous financial year.

Las Iguanas implements a tipping policy whereby table staff are required to pay their employers three percent of the table sales they generate per shift. This means that if a waiter serves £150 worth of food but fails to receive £4.50 in tips, they will then be forced to pay the money out of their wage. Even on George Osborne’s so-called “living wage” (assuming you are over 25), this opens up the possibility of staff losing over half an hour’s pay per shift! In London the percentage rises further to 4.4%, another sign of the Conservatives London-centric economy.

The justification Las Iguanas offered when questioned about their tipping policy was that it allowed kitchen workers and the front of house team to share the tips more equitably. However this excuse makes less sense than the overcomplex tipping policy. No clear explanation as to how the policy practically ensures tips are shared equally was offered.

Las Iguanas isn’t the only company that has dubious tipping policies, with many big chain companies deducting a percentage of the tip for “admin costs”. For example, until recently Pizza Express deducted a massive 8% of any credit card tip. According to the Unite union, this meant the company pocketed £1million per year. After a successful campaign by staff put pressure on Pizza Express, they’ve backed down – but companies like Giraffe and Cafe Rouge still take 10% of all the tips collected.

What’s clear is that waiting staff are being put under pressure by big chains; not content with underpaying their staff, they also want a cut of the tips they earn. A wage dictated by the generosity of the person you’re serving isn’t appropriate in the 21st century, especially when a company won’t even let you have that. That’s why it’s important to increase the minimum wage – we demand a wage of £10 an hour now and an end to exploitative zero-hour contracts to give all workers stability and a wage they can live on.

Museum staff forced to take pay cut

Museum staff forced to take pay cut

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

Museum staff in Coventry – working for the trust that manages the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, the Transport Museum, Lunt Fort and the Priory Visitor Centre – are being forced to take a pay cut which could cost them up to £3000 a year.

Two weeks ago all staff of Culture Coventry were given a letter from the Chief Executive, Gary Hall, saying that they had to sign to accept new terms of employment by 5th May or their contracts would be terminated, and they would only be offered their jobs back under the new terms.

Dave Nellist, of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, who first raised the matter publicly at a memorial service attended by councillors and held adjacent to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum on April 28, said today:

“The new contract scraps flexitime and enhanced payment for weekend and evening work. As the nature of the museums is to be open 7 days a week plus special events, staff have relied on shift and unsocial hours money as part of their earnings. Many workers face a £3,000 a year loss.

“This is yet another example of people who have absolutely no responsibility for the recession and economic crisis being asked to pay for it. Most staff at Culture Coventry are so frightened of losing their jobs, and being unable to pay their mortgage, that they are keeping their heads down and taking it all.

“But I understand Coventry City Council has four elected members on the Board of Culture Coventry, and that they were briefed 3 months ago about these wage cuts – yet it appears that many other councillors, including some from the controlling Labour group, were unaware of these cuts until I raised it last week.

“Councillors on the Board of Culture Coventry should call an emergency meeting and then have these disgraceful wage cuts rescinded. The City Council, who until recently ran all these services, should not put them under arms length arrangements and then wash their hands of all responsibility for staff, many of whom have given years if not decades of service to this city.”

This is the letter sent to museum staff.

Herbert Art Gallery staff forced to take pay cut

Herbert Art Gallery staff forced to take pay cut

Packed room for Socialist election rally

Packed room for Socialist election rally

107 people packed in for the rally

107 people packed in for the rally

107 people packed into the Methodist Central Hall for the Coventry Socialists pre-election rally with Irish Socialist Party MP Ruth Coppinger last week.

Socialist activist and TUSC candidate for North Warwickshire, Eileen Hunter, opened the rally with some reflections on her campaign in the closest marginal seat in the country. John Boadle from Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax then spoke about the planned eviction of Archie Millar, a Coventry resident hit by the bedroom tax, that was prevented by socialists, TUSC candidates and neighbours. Archie was applauded for his strength in fighting back – community campaigners can win!

Irish TD Ruth Coppinger

Irish TD Ruth Coppinger

Ruth then spoke about the situation in Ireland, where there has been a mass movement against austerity, including huge demonstrations and non-payment of water charges. She also spoke about the campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum on same-sex marriage, and against the ban on abortion. Dave Nellist spoke to close the rally, and addressed a number of issues about cuts and austerity. He pointed out that the £70billion+ in bonuses given out by banks since the financial crisis is equivalent to the cuts made to the public sector, and that the super-rich have increased their wealth in that time – “there’s enough wealth in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands!”

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

The rally showed the potential to build the anti austerity socialist alternative in Coventry, something we will continue to do after the election. The election is on Thursday, but Socialists won’t stop campaigning on Friday morning – we’ll keep fighting all year round. Want to help TUSC? Fill in the form below and get involved!

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist 

Dave speaking at Coventry's May Day rally

Dave speaking at Coventry’s May Day rally

This letter about council cuts from former Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist was printed in yesterday’s Coventry Telegraph. Read this article if you want more background on the council’s planned cuts and what the Socialist Party would do differently.

“There’s been little coverage, so far, of the 18 contests for city council seats also taking place on May 7. So allow me raise one issue that I think could define those elections.

On April 22 the Telegraph carried the welcome story of a stay of execution for a City Council jobs service which helps some of the most vulnerable people in the city, at least until the end of the year.

This follows earlier decisions to delay for consultation the imminent closure of libraries, and cuts to disabled children’s transport. None of those decisions will now be taken before the election.

But in fact none of those decisions need to be taken at all.

None of the planned cuts to libraries, children’s and family centres, community centres, adult education centres, lollipop men and women, street cleaners and park maintenance are necessary.

Because when the City Council made its decision in February to set a budget including £15 million worth of cuts to the services mentioned above (and another thousand secure jobs lost to young people in the city) it did so on the money it knew at that time it had as income.

But since then we have learned that Wasps RFC is going to re-pay this summer the balance of the £14.4 million council loan, given to the Ricoh management company which Wasps now own. In other words the City Council will have for this year’s budget £14 million more than 3 months ago it thought it would have.

So here’s a question we could ask to every aspiring councillor in the last few days of the campaign: do you agree that the repayment of that £14 million Ricoh loan should be used to save our libraries, lollipop men and women, disabled children’s transport, jobs service for the most vulnerable and the other services under threat?

Yours sincerely,

Dave Nellist
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition”

Agree with Dave? Want to fight the council cuts? Fill in the form below to get involved!