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.

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Fighting to save Coventry’s last two play centres

Fighting to save Coventry’s last two play centres

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Campaigners outside Edgwick Play Centre

Parents and children who use Edgwick and Eagle St play centres took to the streets of Coventry on Saturday as part of their campaign to save the City’s last 2 play centres.

The centres face closure as part of the council’s latest cuts.

Speaking outside the council house, Nebiyu one of the children using Eagle Street play centre said “It’s wrong to close play centres. They are somewhere safe to go.”

One Nanny present confirmed that saying that her grandson “suffered bullying at school and the play centre was the only socialising he gets with kids his own age.”

Protest organiser Simon Evans says the campaign will go on. “The support from parents and kids has been marvellous and our local schools including St Elizabeth’s and our local police centre are determined to help us keep this open, and have spoken out with their concerns if they are to be closed.”

Simon’s daughter Kimberly said: “Most of these kids, like me, have made brilliant friends and has helped with socialisation. It’s so sad.”

The play centre provides a service 6 days a week  (3 to 5.30, 10 to 2.30 Saturdays) and the site is used to run a youth club on 3 evenings. George Sands of UNISON says it will mean the loss of more female, part-time jobs. He believes the council plan to hand the building over to a private firm for an under 2’s nursery. “But why can’t both services use the facility?”

Jane Nellist of the NUT, the teachers union, and secretary of Coventry Trades Union Council said that “play is central to children’s development and there should be many more play centres, not none! It cannot be right that in Coventry we will have 2 giant universities and no play centres.” Jane attacked government cuts pointing out that Britain is a rich country but that if play centres were being closed then the money is in the wrong hands.

We urge all readers to support the play centre campaigners.

Simon can be reached at simon_evansuk@yahoo.co.uk

Austerity: how many more protests like this do we have to witness outside the council house?

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Outside the Council House

The Socialist Party supported and will continue to support the protest of the play centre campaigners and believes it is sad that year after year we have seen countless groups of Coventry people campaigning to save services. From schools, disabled workshops, youth clubs, play centres, swimming baths and so many more. When will this be enough for local councils to say enough is enough?

Dave Nellist warmed to this theme. He said it was shameful that we had to see “Kids and parents defending play centres outside the council house and that not one councillor was here. What are councillors there for if not to defend our city and it’s people’s services?”

He added that “…the Council now has £84 million in reserves, and what would it cost to keep these play centres open? £100,000?”

They could be kept open, he argued, while a campaign was built to fight to win back some of the money that the government has stolen from our city.

In the parents own words…  Why a play centre is so important

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Save our play centres!

Simon Evans: “My children Kimberly, aged 11 and Rhian, aged 7 will be affected by the closure. Kimberly is now at secondary school and her favourite thing to do is to play football, which if not for the play centre, she would rarely be able to do this as she feels unable to join the boys at her school to play, while her girl friends there do not play.

Rhian has built up a lot of confidence since she started going to the play centre. When she first went she would not speak to more than a few children. Now she speaks to several children there, and even joins in with games. I am very concerned with the safety of the park if the play centre closes, as the staff there report any suspicious activity that they witness to the local police.”

Lucy O’Donoghue’s child Saskia goes to the play centre states: “The closure of the play centre will have a very big negative 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 provide a safe positive, multicultural, tolerant environment for her to play, trips to go on.”

Lisa Achrar whose children Adriam and Mishara go to the play centre says: “It will mean I would be unable to work to provide for my family”.

Salma Begum, whose child Muhammed goes there says: “There will be nowhere to go. If parents need to go to work they will know that children are safe without having to worry.”

Roxanne Richmond’s whose child Olivia goes there says: “The play centre has a huge impact on Olivia’s social skills and enables her to mix with the children from all sorts of backgrounds and ethnic groups; This enables her to become more confident and has brought her lots of new social skills.”

Lively protest to save Coventry libraries

Lively protest to save Coventry libraries

Protesters outside Earlsdon library

Protesters outside Earlsdon library

Save Coventry Libraries organised a demonstration on Saturday at Earlsdon library with very short notice. Dozens of people attended of all ages. It was an incredibly lively protest with home made banners and placards. Many cars passing hooted in support and it was absolutely clear that everyone was there to show support for all Coventry libraries. The demonstrators were, also, absolutely clear that they do not support austerity and cuts to service. The fight against these cuts must and will continue.

The demonstration was, in part, a response to a meeting in Earlsdon that had been advertised entitled ‘delivering communities differently’. The posters for this meeting had a photograph on them of Earlsdon library. They did not give any more details of what the meeting would be about or who the organisers were. The campaign group could only assume from this that ‘delivering communities differently’ meant not through the city council. We have already attended meetings organised by residents associations that have looked at other models, including community volunteer led libraries. We had every intention of attending the meeting on Saturday to debate the issues.

We were deeply saddened that the organisers of this meeting (we are still not sure who they were) decided to cancel it. The reason we have been given for doing so, was that they thought families would have been intimidated by the protest outside the library. It’s interesting as the families that would have gone to the meeting are probably the same as were on the protest. In fact all of the people at the protest would have gone to the meeting.

Part of the discussion at the meeting, we have since learned, was to be about social enterprise. York was one of the first local authorities to consider social enterprise for libraries. It’s model means that the library employees partly own and run the libraries. This involves, as the unions in York have rightly warned, significant financial risk being transferred to library staff. Staff, many of whom, work part time on relatively low wages. We don’t as yet know whether this is the preferred model for Coventry because there has been no open and frank consultation of library provision. This is something we would welcome and would be happy to highlight the pitfalls of each privatisation model.

There are further problems with finding individual solutions for Coventry libraries. It leaves those less ‘attractive’ completely at risk. Particularly those that serve the poorest areas of the city with the greatest need of library provision.

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries, speaking at the protest

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries, speaking at the protest

We have seen in this city, recent investment in roads and new council buildings. But why aren’t the council seeking long term investment in libraries? Investment that doesn’t involve handing them over to private companies, institutions or individuals? Investment that means they are fit for purpose with the best up to date facilities. Investment perhaps from Coventry based firms that wish to support but not take over the libraries. Why is privatisation seen as the only solution?

It’s absolutely clear that libraries are essential to so many people, but particularly the poorest families and individuals in Coventry. Many people in Coventry and certainly at the protest yesterday can talk about why the library is important to them. It’s, also, clear that the libraries are offering far more services than books. Over the past year we know that the city council has been shocked by the level of support for the libraries and the level of anger when the question of privatisation in any of its forms is raised. This is why we won a year’s reprieve. The city councillors should now be open and honest about what the plans are for the city’s libraries. There should be no more meetings behind closed doors or with unspecific agendas. As one protestor echoed yesterday ‘once we hand the libraries over, they will be gone and we won’t get them back!’ This cannot happen which is why we will keep fighting to save every library.

We now need regular demonstrations like Saturday’s outside every library in Coventry as every single library in Coventry is still under threat of closure or privatisation. No cuts to services. No austerity.

Nicky Downes, Chair of Save Coventry Libraries

Join the Save Coventry Libraries campaign – email Save.Coventry.Libraries@gmail.com

 Facebook: Save Coventry Libraries

Shocking figures expose poverty pay in Coventry

Shocking figures expose poverty pay in Coventry

Low pay in Coventry

Low pay in Coventry

Figures reported by the Coventry Telegraph today have exposed the extent of low pay in our city.

The report showed that according to government figures around 26,000 people, or nearly 1 in 5 of those in work in 2014, were earning less than the living wage of £7.65 per hour.

Low pay, linked to the proliferation of zero hour contracts and casualised work combined with the recent and future job losses will further exacerbate growing inequality in the city. Tory cuts to tax credits will drag ever more people in to the race to the bottom.

It also exposes the claim from the leadership of Coventry City Council including Labour councillors who boast regularly that Coventry is going to be a ‘top ten city’. A ‘top ten city’, but for whom? Is it a ‘top ten city’ for those 18,000 people who rely on foodbanks or for those trying to survive on less than the living wage (though we would also ask who could actually live on the 2015 living wage rate of £7.85 per hour?) Is it a ‘top ten city’ for those who can’t get decent housing and are driven in to the hands of landlords charging exorbitant rent?

Or is it a top ten city for businesses wanting to make more profit on the back of a low wage workforce who do not know when they working from one week to the next?

We have outlined previously an alternative for Coventry, and what councillors could be doing to lead a fight back in the city. We would encourage people to look at this by clicking here

The situation is only going to get worse as the Council add to over 1,000 people it has already made redundant in the last 5 years with further massive cuts expected to take place in the near future.

It is a far cry from the not so distant past in Coventry. Coventry had one of the highest wage rates in the country. The need to rebuild trade union organisation across the city is paramount. Companies and organisations can’t be allowed to get away with poverty pay and the use of zero hour contracts.

This isn’t just a Coventry problem. Across the country and indeed the world there is a race to the bottom as companies and governments of the 1 per cent attempt to make ordinary people pay for the capitalist economic crisis. The logic of the system is to drive down wages as well the workplace rights of working class people to make more profit. This needs to be challenged – we need a massive fight for a £10 per hour minimum wage, decent and secure jobs and housing for all. This should be linked to the fight to get rid of this crisis ridden capitalist system. If you agree with us, we encourage you to join us

 

 

 

 

Hundreds protest across West Midlands against Tory Austerity Budget

Hundreds protest across West Midlands against Tory Austerity Budget

The Tories emergency budget on 8th July saw vicious attacks on huge sections of society. But one group particularly hard hit was young people. The abolition of student grants, attacks on our right to housing benefit and that under-25s will be excluded from the new so-called living wage, mean young people are facing an even more bleak and uncertain future. But Osborne’s cuts budget was met with resistance. Protests took place around the country. In the West Midlands, Youth Fight for Jobs and young members of the Socialist Party organised 6 events throughout the day.

Despite catching the only times during the day where it rained, protests were held in Wolverhampton and Nuneaton while the budget proposals were being announced. With Youth Fight for Jobs organised events taking place later on in the day in Stoke and Worcester as well.

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  Nuneaton Protesters

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Wolverhampton

Aidan from Nuneaton reported;“We had loads of good conversations with people who were disgusted with Tory austerity and happily signed petitions and took leaflets away about building the anti-austerity movement”

100 people also attended an early evening demonstration in Coventry, that marched from Broadgate Square to Coventry Council House. Linking the latest draconian austerity measures with the proposed attacks on Trade Union facility time by Coventry’s Labour Council.

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Coventry protesters march to the Council House

In Birmingham an energetic crowd over of over 300 people heard from numerous speakers of different ages, some being new to the experience.

A group photograph was taken in support of the Greek people, after which, everyone marched to the West Midlands BBC office. Chanting all the way, and gaining attention from passers-by, the march delivered a letter to the West Midlands BBC director requesting they present more anti-austerity coverage.

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Birmingham

YFJ’s lively stalls and their demands of a £10 an hour minimum wage, rebuilding public services and a 24-hour general strike were extremely popular. A short but vibrant rally included speakers from the RMT, CWU and Unison as well as YFJ and campaigners against cuts to local library services.

Overall, with a youthful and fresh feeling, the protests have added to the range of demonstrations held across the region and has received much positive feedback from people. Over 150 people signed up to be involved in YFJ’s future anti austerity campaigns across the West Midlands who had never participated in political activity before.

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers - on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers – on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

By Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT joint secretary (personal capacity)

Coventry City Council, a Labour controlled authority, is seeking to make draconian cuts on the trade union facilities time of the recognised trade unions.

Recently in The Socialist newspaper we have had reports of attacks on trade unions in Conservative councils which are being fought alongside mass privatisation of services, but these attacks, from a Labour controlled council are an absolute disgrace.  Trade Unions are organising and mobilising members to defend our rights to support our members.

What’s worse is the manner in which they are trying to railroad this through without proper negotiation and regard to our collective agreements.

A Collective Dispute lodged on behalf of Unison, Unite, NUT, NASUWT and ATL has been disregarded.  The proposals outlined in a flawed document, which is defended with references to the arguments used by the Tax Payers Alliance, would mean that unions would suffer severe reductions in the time allocated for Trade Union duties to support their members, with Unison losing 45%, Unite, 21% and the NUT losing 70% of facilities time.

Pressure by the two Labour Party affiliated trade unions to persuade Labour leaders to intervene and withdraw the proposals has had no impact which makes members question more seriously why their unions are funding the Labour Party.   A wide campaign has now been launched to challenge the attacks.

Two issues need to be highlighted.  City Council Trade Unions have been at the forefront of the campaign to defend council services in the city.  We have had some success in pressurising the council to pull back on some areas of cuts to more vulnerable services such as Library cuts, disabled transport for schools and an employment service for vulnerable adults (TESS).  More importantly, these attacks coincide with the plans for the huge cuts which are about to come because Coventry Council, like others across the country have refused to stand up to Tory cuts.

It’s not just going to be services that are under attack.  As well as the 1000 jobs already cut, we know that there will be more job losses planned as well as huge attacks on pay and conditions on our members.

The key issue here is that whilst you sort of expect it from Tory councils, the fact that Labour is now openly preparing the way for the Tory’s dirty work exposes just why we need political representation that supports workers and defends our services.

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

The National Shop Stewards Network on Saturday, demonstrated how important it is to have fighting trade unions. The NSSN conference heard from trade unionists in Coventry about the campaign – with hundreds of union activists, including shop stewards, NEC members and general secretaries pledging their support for us

The fight in Coventry needs to be supported locally, nationally and internationally because if they get away with it here then your council or workplace trade union facility time will be next.

Our trade union movement has made great advances over the decades, but what we are seeing now challenges to all of those gains.  This must not be allowed to happen.

Support us by

  • Signing the online petition here
  • Like the Facebook campaign page here
  • Join the protests against austerity on Wednesday 8th July, 5.30pm Broadgate

Over 100 people join Coventry protest against austerity

Over 100 people join Coventry protest against austerity

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Over 100 people marched through Coventry on Wednesday in a protest against the austerity measures announced at the opening of Parliament. The protest, organised by campaign group Youth Fight for Jobs and supported by a number of groups and trade unions, had speakers from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the People’s Assembly, Coventry City Unison and Coventry TUC.

The march around the City Centre was loud and energetic, with chants of “no ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts” and “if you hate the Tory Party clap your hands”! People were there from a number of different campaigns such as Coventry against the Bedroom Tax, Save the NHS campaigners from 38 Degrees,  workplaces, schools and colleges, as well as a number of people who had travelled from outside the city – from Leamington, Nuneaton and Bedworth. A number of people were on their first protest and a common remark was ‘it is time to do something’.

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The protest was mainly built using social media, with the turnout showing some of the anger people feel at the prospect of “five more damned years” of austerity.

Kris O’Sullivan, president of Coventry Socialist Students, spoke about the importance of solidarity over the next five years of austerity, giving the example of socialist activists and local residents preventing bedroom tax victim Archie Millar from being evicted.

One young woman, Steph, spoke passionately about her experiences of working on a zero-hour contract while trying to study – she was forced to leave her job after having to work 9 hour shifts without a break.

Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

Speakers  talked about the need for a mass turnout on the People’s Assembly demonstration in London on 20th June – coaches are going from Coventry and everyone should book a place!

One attendee at the Coventry protest, Peter, a retired worker from Holbrooks asked ‘Where are the Labour councillors? They should be here protesting against the Tories!’ It was true, once again local councillors, our representatives were completely absent from a protest against austerity.

TUSC candidate for Sherbourne, Jason Toynbee, closed the rally with a speech about the need to build an alternative to austerity – whether it’s being implemented by Labour or the Tories.

Unison members marching against austerity

Unison members marching against austerity

The point made by Jason and others was key. Austerity is going to be the ‘new normal’. We face the battle of our lives to beat back the attacks that our coming. We need more and bigger protests. It is abundantly clear that the only future that capitalism offers is one of austerity cuts, attacks on working class people and closure of vital services  – whilst the rich continue to make huge profits. We need to fight capitalism – we think the best way to do that is to fight for a different type of system, a socialist society that puts people before profit, our lives before the needs of the super rich. Help us build this movement, it really is time to get involved!

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