Blue Coat School Strike – report & pictures from the picket line

Blue Coat School Strike – report & pictures from the picket line

By Kris O’Sullivan

On the Thursday 3rd September members of the NUT went on strike at Blue Coat academy in Coventry in direct response to the attack on the working conditions of teaching / school staff imposed by management.

blue coat strike 2

This has been an ongoing process for an significant amount of time as union reps have been trying to negotiate with management for nearly a year now to restore original contracts.

However this strike is due to changes in performance measuring standards alongside additional significant changes being made with no consultation, with teachers only finding out via the school’s website!

This is all being done in the background of a sweep of redundancies both mandatory and voluntary, TA employment decimated, admin/cleaning staff laid off etc.

_85340710_strike

There was a very good turnout from NUT members and great show of support from local parents, pupils, members of other trade unions and the local community, as many can empathize with the detrimental treatment of workers of Blue coat and ultimately the effect on the pupils themselves.

Further strike action is planned next week on Thursday September 10th.

Socialist Party members visited the Picket line and sent messages of support to the striking teachers.

Socialist Party members visited the Picket line and sent messages of support to the striking teachers.

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

Coventry Socialists stop #bedroomtax eviction

No evictions here!

No evictions here!

“Most people know the Bedroom Tax is a bad thing, and all parties except the Tories are committed to repealing it. But unlike the rest the Socialist Party has always made it clear we would do whatever it takes to defend people suffering its effects. Two years ago we set up Coventry Against The Bedroom Tax. We held public meetings with 200 in attendance, lobbied, protested and publicised, gave advice to many, went to tribunals and court hearings. We helped people get thousands of pounds via appeals and Discretionary Payments. We expected eviction attempts would be reached a year or more back, but Housing Associations like Whitefriars have been slow to take that step, not wanting to look like the villains of the piece.

Suddently this changed when Charterhouse resident Archie Millar phoned last week to say he was to be evicted at 10.00 on Monday. Archie has lived on St Margaret Road since 1976, becoming the tenant when his mother passed away nine years ago. He used to work for Parcelforce but is now unemployed, getting £72 JSA plus his rent via Housing Benefit. The Bedroom Tax means a £25 shortfall in that, which he’s expected to meet out of his JSA leaving him with just £47 a week to pay his bills and live on. Clearly that’s impossible and despite making some payments Archie’s £1700 in arrears. He tried everything to come to terms with Whitefriars. They wouldn’t let him move to a smaller place because he’s in arrears (talk about Catch-22!) and blocked him taking in a lodger even though that was endorsed at a court hearing. Eviction would leave Archie homeless. He tried Welfare Rights advice but all they could offer was the phone number for the Salvation Army and the RSPCA for his dog.

We couldn’t let that happen. Our resources are fully committed to the TUSC election campaign, but we got to work on helping Archie. Dave Nellist approached Whitefriars with a detailed proposal but to no avail, and we organised a protest and media coverage over the course of a weekend. We contacted scores of Party members and other volunteers and about 30 people assembled outside Archie’s house in time to confront the Whitefriars representative, bailiffs, locksmith,  and eventually two vanloads of police who took position scattered along the other side of the road.

The protesters included trade unionists, students and local residents. Some neighbours turned out because they knew Archie, others just because they know what’s right. Archie commented ‘I never knew there were so many good people around’. We packed into the front garden and on the pavement, Archie was in his house with the door firmly locked and a burly trade unionist outside! The protest was deliberately kept peaceful and disciplined to avoid the police intervening. But the atmosphere was determined and excited, with placards, the TUSC banner, laughter and chatter. The media turned up and were very helpful, filming, photographing and interviewing throughout.

Sarah Smith, a Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax organiser and TUSC candidate in Woodlands, pointed out that CABT called for Whitefriars and other social landlords to implement a non-eviction policy for bedroom tax arrears two years ago! She said “Labour claim they’re against the bedroom tax – if that’s the case, why haven’t the three Coventry Labour councillors on the board of Whitefriars stood up and opposed Archie’s eviction, and any others?”

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

Three TUSC candidates (Sarah Smith, Nicky Downes and Lee Cooper) join the protest

The forces on the other side of the road were obviously a lot less cheerful, realising they were not going to get Archie out without a struggle and the world’s worst publicity. The stand-off continued for an hour. During that time Dave Nellist negotiated with Whitefriars, whose bosses were clearly finding themselves in an unfamiliar and awkward position, under the glare of the media spotlight, anxious to find a way out without appearing to back down too much. Finally they called the eviction off and the bailiffs’ van sped away past the protestors, to a chorus of cheers and jeers. We got Archie out, thanked everyone and ended the successful protest, proud of showing what solidarity and people power can do.

What next? Well Whitefriars are suspending their action until June now, while a long-term solution is found. This should have happened before, but Archie would have been out on the street without our action. We expect something acceptable will be found, negotiating with Whitefriars and the Council, especially in the context of the Bedroom Tax’s forthcoming abolition. But if not, we’ll be back. Media coverage since Monday has been very complete, with reports from the Coventry Telegraph, Coventry Observer, BBC Coventry and Warwick radio, Free Radio and BBC Midlands Today. The latter posted a video of the protest on Facebook which has had almost 300,000 views! They commented that this shows the action caught people’s interest and they are keen to do a follow-up to tell viewers the final outcome.

Personally I am proud of how Coventry Socialist Party responded to this sudden threat. It shows how committed and organised we are, even at short notice and when our attention was focussed in another direction. I think the successful outcome came from us being able to organise lively direct action, effective media relations, knowledge of the issue, negotiating skills and an established reputation in the local area. We use those strengths battling away all the time but it’s great when you do win! No-one who participated will forget this for a long time.”

John Boadle, Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax

You can watch some video coverage of the protest here. An interview with Archie and John is below.

Do you want to help stop future evictions or support TUSC candidates? Fill in the form below and get involved!

Dave Nellist congratulates local residents on securing Charterhouse lottery funding

Dave Nellist congratulates local residents on securing Charterhouse lottery funding

nello fuilds

Dave addressing a rally of local residents campaigning to save the fields

Former Coventry Socialist councillor Dave Nellist had this letter published in the Coventry Telegraph this week congratulating Charterhouse residents on securing the future of The Charterhouse and Charterhouse Park. Dave represented St Michaels ward, which includes Charterhouse, on Coventry Council and was heavily involved in the residents campaign to keep the area a public space.

“The announcement of multi-million pound funding for The Charterhouse and Charterhouse Park is a wonderful success for the preservation trust, and all credit must go to them.

But equally so major recognition must be given to the years and years of work of local residents to preserve the area as a public park, which made everything possible.

Without over 40 years of campaigning to preserve public access to the land, we would not be in the position today to see the development of one of Coventry’s major historical sites married to an extension of public space for all communities to enjoy.

In particular the many hundreds of local residents whose active involvement in the Village Green application in 2011 both highlighted continual community use, drew attention to the historic nature of the land, and prevented pre-emptive plans to block access. Without them we wouldn’t be here now on the cusp of a great new park for Coventry.

Without the work of the local residents’ association kicking up a fuss when the former owner of the Charterhouse building put it up for sale this special piece of history could have been lost.

To those who tell local communities that protest, campaigns and active involvement in their areas are pointless and can never win, we can now point to The Charterhouse as living proof that when local residents get organised, things can really happen.

Now let’s do the same for our city’s libraries, community centres, children and family centres, and centres for adult education!”

St Michaels Socialist News – August 2013

Below is the the text and pictures from the current News Bulletin being delivered from and by Dave Nellist and the Socialist Party on issues concerning St Michaels Ward and its residents.

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

In this issue – News on the cuts, MP’s pay, campaign against the Bedroom tax in Coventry,

the Charterhouse Fields and Coventry City Fottball Club…

All politicians are the same…

It’s getting harder and harder to tell the big three parties apart.

See an MP on the TV and it’s not until their name tag comes up you can tell whether they’re Tory, Lib Dem or Labour – they all sound the same.

They made the financial mess and are making us pay!  As if it’s our fault that this city, once the richest working class city in the country, is now best known for having the fastest growing food banks!

3 sons

And local politicians are just as bad. In the 5 years since this financial crisis started hundreds of local jobs have been axed, workers across the city have had wages frozen, or cut. Less workers, with less money in their pockets, has led to 1 in 7 city centre shops  standing empty!

Years ago you could at least tell the difference between the 2 big parties; Not any longer. When the Council met to decide how many local services to cut – cuts, for example, that threaten 10 youth centres and services for the elderly, and are threatening families with eviction for being unable to pay the Tories’ bedroom tax – not 1 councillor out of 54 voted against!

For the first time in nearly 40 years the budget vote on the Council that night was unanimous – Labour and Tory councillors united in saying that local people have to suffer more for the bankers’ gambling.  Not one councillor voted against – that has to change!

In Parliaments Budget debate, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls emphasised that a future Labour government would NOT reverse the cuts or the Tories hated bedroom Tax. Instead he pledged Labour would use the Con-Dem cuts as a starting point for more cuts!

But ours are different…

In June – in one of those “you couldn’t make it up” moments – MPs pay body IPSA recommended a £11,000 a year rise!

MPs have presided over a 9% cut in average wages, while food and fuel prices are rocketing. They stand idle while 1 in 5 of Coventry’s young people are unemployed. And they think they’re worth a bigger rise in their wages than a person on the minimum wage gets for a whole year!

Well socialist politicians are different.  The Socialist Party has consistently argued that being an MP or a councillor shouldn’t raise people above the people they represent.  They should only receive the average wage of skilled workers in our city – not 2 or 3 times the salary, and five times the holidays, of the rest of us.

And we have a track record to prove ours isn’t an idle boast. We did it!When the BBC wanted to contrast someone with the MPs pay rise they profiled Coventry Socialist Party member Dave Nellist.  Dave, MP for Coventry South-East in the 1980s, is famous nationally for only taking the same wage as the people he represented, and giving tens of thousands of £s to local and national campaigns.

 NO TO THE MP’s PAY RISE 

 

FOR WORKERS MP’s ON WORKERS WAGES.

from a BBC article on the 13 July 2013, titled

 ‘Dave Nellist : The Coventry MP who gave away half his pay’. 

‘Mr Nellist, now 60 and still an active member of the Socialist Party… had worked in a factory for many years. He only accepted the average wage of a skilled Coventry factory worker  -46% of his salary as an MP-..Mr Nellist said he saw his political career as being akin to that of a union rep in a factory.

‘At the time, I saw the job as like a union rep for Coventry people, but not on 3 times the wages or holiday. The engineering union used to work out the average factory wage in Coventry – equivalent to £28,000 nowadays – so that’s what I took home.’ 

“I accepted every penny of the (MP’s) salary, but as the Labour Party we gave away roughly £35,000 of it [per year in today’s money] to help miners families in the 80s, community groups, pensioners. The suggestion by [Ipsa chairman] Sir Ian Kennedy that the pay rise would stop MPs claiming more expenses is frankly amazing – I was lost for words. It’s basically  saying they’ll get a bung on their salary as a way of keeping them in line.”

Dave Nellist (on right) - a true Working Class fighter.
Dave Nellist (on right) – a true Working Class fighter.

Mr Nellist added that as a Coventry City Councillor for 12 years until 2012, he continued to take home the same wage by reducing the hours of his full time job at an advice agency. Mr Nellist believes councillors and MPs should be able to empathise with the people affected by political decisions.

 “With a 9% average fall in wages, MPs shouldn’t get a rise – it insulates them from the day-to-day problems like food & fuel which have rocketed. Millions have to get by on much less [than MPs]. That’s why they should be paid only a workers wage. So, like us, they share the pain and the gain”.

————————————————————————–

 FIGHT IS ON TO DEFEAT KILLER BEDROOM TAX!

200 people from across Coventry have attended meetings in Hillfields, Tile Hill, Stoke and Henley to organise the fight against the bedroom tax. Dave Nellist opened the meetings and spoke about the death of Stephanie Bottrill from Kingshurst.

Her death was a tragedy and no one else must be left to feel that they are on their own in their struggle against the bedroom tax. To get the tax scrapped we must stand together and fight it as a community.

Dave Nellist leading the lobby of Whitefriars. Demanding they take a no eviction policy.
Dave Nellist leading the lobby of Whitefriars. Demanding they take a no eviction policy.

We are building an anti-eviction network across Coventry. A network of people who are prepared to help resist evictions, protest outside court hearings etc. This is so no one is left isolated and we can call on people at short notice to fight against people losing their homes. We need as many people as possible to be part of this –  if you can help in any way, please contact us.

HOTLINE NUMBER: 07870757585

 

 Councils must help the fight against this unjust tax

We need councillors who fight to defend their communities by:

1) Demanding that the government scrap the bedroom tax

2) Fighting for all debt to be written off

3) Demanding Housing Associations refuse to evict anyone in rent arrears as a result of this tax

4) Refusing to implement all cuts and build a mass campaign to defeat the ConDem government.

So far Labour Councillors in Coventry, who sit on the board of Whitefriars and other housing associations have refused to demand a no evictions policy! Labour Leader Ann Lucas herself even refused to allow an anti bedroom Tax Stall at the Godiva Festival!

 Just who’s side are Labour Councillors on?…

The People of Coventry or  the ConDem government!

———————————————————————————–

Charterhouse – Exciting possibilities

All the residents hard work may be at last paying off.  For years local people, strongly supported by Socialist Party councillors, have fought to keep public access to one of Coventry’s hidden gems, the Charterhouse Fields off the London Road.

For the last 2 years our former councillor, Dave Nellist, has kept a block on potential development of the area by submitting a Village Green application – supported by evidence of hundreds of local people.  But Dave and the residents haven’t stood still, they’ve been meeting with others who also want to see protection of the Fields, and the restoration of the nationally important historic buildings there – and now there’s movement in the right direction.

We hope there’ll be an announcement fairly soon of national funding to restore the historic Charterhouse & make major improvements to the parkland around it.  Whilst the Council in the past ignored what local people wanted, socialists & residents working together have proved they are the best defence to the threat of the loss of green space we can all enjoy.

—————————————————————-

They’ve taken our jobs, factories & hospitals…

 

Now they taking our Football Club!

 

 Thousands march through city to ‘Keep Cov in Cov’

7,000 people marched on 20th July in protest against the recent decision to move Coventry City home games over 30 miles away to Northampton. Dave Nellist addressed the final rally in Broadgate. Dave pointed out that back in 2003 the 3 Socialist Party Cllrs had the casting vote over whether the new Ricoh Arena would be built. The Socialists wanted to improve the deal for local people. We got amendments passed, guaranteeing  jobs for local people & any profits from sales of land should go back in to services for Coventry people.

Dave Nellist addresses the rally of thousands in Broadgate.
Dave Nellist addresses the rally of thousands in Broadgate.

However, Dave pointed out that looking back we should also have moved an amendment to ensure that the fans had a representative on the Board, as they do in many other countries. Dave pointed out to rapturous applause that whilst in other countries there are clubs owned by the fans, we have here a situation where an offshore hedge fund is only interested in raking as much profit as possible from the people of Coventry.

The tragedy that has hit Coventry City FC is a perfect example of how profit hungry parasites such as SISU directly attack working class communities, traditions & culture. They must be stopped, with discussions needed on how we can get fan and community ownership and control of clubs, football and sport in general.

 Public Meeting – Football and Big Business

 John Reid author of Reclaim the Game

 Monday, 19th August, 7.30pm SQ Club, Whitefriars Lane, Coventry, CV1 2DT

——————————————————–

JOIN the SOCIALIST PARTY!

The Socialist Party meets around Coventry every week on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday nights,  7.30.

 Get in touch for info, about meetings or joining the Socialist Party.

 phone/text 07530 429441   coventrysocialistparty@gmail.com

http://www.coventrysocialists.wordpress.com                www.socialistparty.org.uk

  Dave Nellist

Ring  07870 294 237    Email: dave@nellist.net

Keep up with Dave on:

facebook.com/dave.nellist       Twitter: @DaveNellist