Public sector wages – Pay up! Strike to smash the cap

Public sector wages – Pay up! Strike to smash the cap

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Jane Nellist

We are pleased to carry this article from Socialist Party member Jane Nellist regarding the public sector pay cap. The article was originally published in a recent issue of The Socialist newspaper. Jane is joint secretary of Coventry National Union of Teachers and a member of the NEC of her union, as well as being President of Coventry TUC (she writes here in a personal capacity)


Public sector wages – Pay up! Strike to smash the cap!

A stark new report by the government’s own advisors on public sector pay has shown that there was a 6% drop in average wages from 2005 to 2015.

That’s reflected in a £3 an hour loss for teachers, £2 an hour for police officers and £8 an hour for doctors.

More experienced teachers have lost as much as £5,000 a year because of pay restraint, and that doesn’t include the loss from increases in pension and National Insurance contributions.

There is a growing anger among public sector workers about low pay and funding cuts to the services they deliver. The Tories are wobbling on the public sector pay cap, with many cabinet members – fearing mass revolt – coming out for change.

But we cannot rely on their ‘good nature’! They’ll just cut somewhere else to pay for it. We must come out fighting.

At the 1 July ‘Not One Day More’ demo Mark Serwotka, leader of the PCS civil servants’ union, absolutely nailed it when he posed the question: “Why don’t we have a public sector pay strike to break the pay cap?”

As each day goes by, the Tories are getting weaker. Even though mathematically they have a small majority, propped up by the billion-pound bribe for votes from the DUP, they have no authority.

And it’s not only pay they’re showing weakness on, some have hinted at tuition fees being on the table too. As their poll ratings plummet, they are more divided. We need to push harder to put them out of their misery.

The recent demo was vibrant and young. Labour’s manifesto started to lift aspirations on so many fronts. The mantra of austerity, ‘we are all in it together,’ is dead.

The mood is changing and there is a tangible feeling of victory in the air. That can become a reality, but only if the leadership of our trade unions starts to lead.

Now is the time to organise the millions of public sector workers in a serious coordinated campaign, including strike action, to win back dignity for public sector workers and the services we deliver.

3 years on from the J1O strike

3 years on from the J10 strike

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Ginger Jentzen address the rally

Today marks 3 years since public sector workers in Coventry and across the country took action against pay cuts, attacks on pensions and in defence of public services. It gave a glimpse of the power of workers from different unions striking together. Here in Coventry the strike was very well supported, with workers being given a boost by Socialist Alternative member Ginger Jentzen who was visiting from the United States. Ginger spoke at a 500 strong rally in Broadgate Square bringing solidarity from American workers and Socialist Alternative in the US.  To see pictures and reports of the picket lines, read our article here.

With the focus being brought back on to public sector pay, trade union members and activists needs to discuss the lessons of previous pay campaigns in order to make sure this time we win a decent pay rise as well as getting rid of the Tories. We encourage readers of this site to have a look at the article by Socialist Party trade union organiser Rob Williams who discusses how we can take the movement forward.

Want to help break the pay cap and get the Tories out? Fill in the form below!

 

May Day in Coventry

May Day in Coventry

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PCS Vice-President John McInally speaking at Coventry May Day rally

As part of protests, rallies and demonstrations around the world to mark International Workers’ Day an event was held in Coventry city centre, organised by Coventry TUC and Coventry against Racism.

As well as local speakers from a wide variety of unions and campaigns, the main speaker this year was John McInally, national Vice-President of the PCS civil service union.

John outlined the current situation facing working class people, and the need to get rid of capitalism and fight for socialism. He pointed out that 100 years ago in Russia, many people would have said it was impossible to get rid of the Tsar. Yet working class people not only overthrew the Tsar, but also capitalism.

Other speakers included Dave Nellist on the history and origins of May Day, a speaker from UCU, an NUT rep, a member of the Indian Workers’ Association, a Socialist Party member calling for solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya and an activist from Stand up to Racism.

Coventry TUC have ensured that the tradition of May Day is kept alive and hundreds of shoppers will have heard pro trade union, anti racist and socialist arguments. In the coming years this event will grow as the working class begins to find its voice, and rediscovers it’s revolutionary history and the relevance for today’s struggles.

On Monday we will be publishing an article by Dave Nellist in the current issue of The Socialist newspaper on the real origins of May Day.

Coventry commemorates International Workers’ Memorial Day

Coventry commemorates International Workers’ Memorial Day

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Trade unionists from across Coventry came together for International Workers’ Memorial Day 

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day, and an event was held in Coventry to remember those that have died through work related issues, all those that suffer through a lack of appropriate health and safety regulation and increases in workplace stress.

Each year thousands of workers are killed, fall sick or are injured in the workplace. This is linked to increasingly exploitative employment practices such as zero hour contracts and attacks on holiday entitlement and sick pay.

One of the themes this year was the growing ‘Gig economy’ with more workers being employed through companies like Uber and Deliveroo. Joel, a campaigner with Youth Fight for Jobs highlighted this very point, explaining that unless the economy and society are re-organised on socialist lines to put people before profit, things are very bleak for young people under the capitalist system.

Two speakers from Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre told the audience about the problems being faced by workers from abroad. Organising these workers in to trade unions will be a key task for the movement, to ensure everyone has a decent wage and to stop employers and their ‘race to the bottom’.

Other speakers included the Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Skipper, who thanked Coventry TUC for organising the event, Sarah Feeney from UNISON, Stephen Cowden from UCU, JP Rosser from PCS, and Alan Lewis and John Swift from UNITE.

In closing the meeting, Jane Nellist President of Coventry TUC urged those gathered to pledge to “remember the dead and fight for the living”. A key part of that will be building stronger and more militant trade unions, linked to a socialist programme to end the capitalist system that puts profit before the lives and wellbeing of workers and their families.

Coventry TUC have organised a May Day Rally for Saturday 29th April, 11am in Broadgate. One of the main speakers will be John McInally, vice-president of PCS.

Education for all – not exam factories

Education for all – not exam factories

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We are pleased to publish the following article by Jane Nellist concerning the situation in our education system. Jane is on the NEC of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and is currently President of Coventry TUC. The article also appears in the current issue of The Socialist, the Marxist newspaper for workers and youth. It should be read alongside the article ‘What kind of education?’ which also appears in same issue.


Education for all – not exam factories

By Jane Nellist

It is without doubt that our children are the most tested in the world.

Almost from the time a child starts school, they are subjected to a never-ending regime of examinations. This not only impacts on the child, but on the school and the individual teacher, and most importantly on the quality of education.

The costs of these formal tests and exams are a drain on school budgets, with private companies, like Pearson, making huge profits from our education system. Constant switching between exam boards creates huge workloads for teachers, rewriting schemes of work.

The pressure of testing on pupils causes unnecessary stress, resulting in increasing levels of mental health issues. Schools are now more like ‘exam factories’.

Even the Institute of Directors uses this term. Their report in April stated that “this study raises serious concerns that UK education policy is turning our schools into exam factories, squeezing out creativity and the joy of learning at a time when these very attributes are becoming increasingly important.”

With teachers subjected to performance-related pay, it is obvious that ‘teaching to the test’ impacts on the curriculum young people experience. Music, art and drama are being marginalised.

Teachers have always used testing as part of the assessment of their pupils, but it is only one of the tools we use. The increase in the use of publicly reported testing and exams from children as young as seven is more to do with control than good education.

So does it have to be like this?

Well, the simple answer is no. Teachers want to ensure all their pupils can achieve their full potential, whatever their ability. High-stakes testing inevitably means some pupils are more ‘important’ than others. Children with special educational needs, and those more able, can often be sidelined.

‘Pisa’, which looks at the quality of education worldwide, has consistently shown that Finnish children perform well. This is in a country where there are no school inspectors, no league tables, and no exams until the age of 16.

In Germany, while they have introduced national tests, there are no performance league tables and schools are not penalised for poor results.

Of course, parents want to ensure there is accountability. But a recent Ipsos Mori poll on who people trust put teachers on 88%, second only to doctors and nurses – while politicians, who make the decisions about our education system, came in at 15%.

Sats

Parents are becoming increasingly uneasy about the level of testing. Campaigns such as ‘Children are More than a Score’ are gaining wider support for ending Sats.

We need a huge overhaul of education, led by education professionals. We need to rid our system of the present national curriculum, along with Ofsted inspections, Sats and league tables.

Our immediate demands should include a flexible curriculum with more practical learning. It must be a broad and balanced curriculum, with time for the arts, music and more pupil-led innovation, as well as a wide pastoral curriculum including health and sex education for all.

Diagnostic testing and moderated teacher assessment should be at the discretion of the teachers. But a socialist education system would be based on individual and group learning and attainment rather than exams.

Agree with Jane? Fill in the form below!

‘Connecting Communities’ Stop the latest cuts from Coventry Council

‘Connecting Communities’ Stop the latest cuts from Coventry Council

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Trade unions campaigning against ‘Connecting Communities’

Saturday saw trade unionists and anti-cuts groups out in the city centre campaigning against the latest round of cuts (under the misnamed title of ‘Connecting Communities’) from Coventry City Council. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed and petitions signed against the closure of libraries, children’s and youth centres.

We publish below the text of a leaflet distributed by the Socialist Party. If you agree, get in touch using the form at the bottom!


‘Connecting Communities’ Stop the latest cuts from the City Council

Councillors should fight austerity – not implement it

Coventry City Council is ‘consulting’ on proposals that will have a devastating impact on Coventry people, and change the nature of vital public services including public libraries, youth work and nursery provision, children’s and youth centres.

The Council wants to get rid of paid staff in the libraries and replace them with volunteers who will work for free. Doesn’t this sound a bit like the ‘Big Society’ of David Cameron and the Tories. Unfortunately it is being introduced by a Labour council here in Coventry.

Last year the council ‘consulted’ over plans to cut £1.2m from libraries and play centres. Despite dozens of meetings the Council largely ignored the opposition and went ahead with closing play centres on Eagle Street and Edgewick, cutting spending on library books and DVDs, and reducing library staff and opening hours. Now they’re coming back for more! 

Right-wing Labour want 3x as much in cuts to libraries, nurseries, youth clubs and community centres next year – £3.8m!

And to rub salt into the wound, whilst the council is again organising meetings to ‘listen to people’s views’, at the very same time it had set up a fund, over £1/2m, to give grants to those who want to take over services under threat.

Jeremy Corbyn has just been re-elected as Labour leader on an anti-austerity platform. However Labour councils like here in Coventry, or in Durham and Derby where they are attacking low paid education workers, are undermining his anti-austerity message.

It’s true the Tories have slashed the amount of money provided to our city. Their only concern is to protest the bankers and the 1%. However Labour locally could be opposing these cuts. For example:

  • Use the reserves to hold off the cuts. The Council has increased its reserves from £40m in 2010 to £84m today. Use some of this money to buy time to build a massive campaign of unions, local communities and service users to demand more money from central government.
  • Councillors should look to link up with other local authorities including calling a conference of councillors and unions from local government to build a massive national campaign to restore funding to our councils.

Unfortunately our Council has done neither of these. Not one Labour Councillor has voted against any of the proposed cuts packages. We need councillors that will fight these cuts and stand up for our communities. At the same time we need build a movement that can challenge capitalist austerity and lead a fight for a socialist system which can guarantee our public services and put the interests of working class people before private profit.

Agree? Get in touch! Fill in the form below

Coventry celebrates May Day

Coventry celebrates May Day

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, addresses Coventry rally

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, addresses Coventry rally

A lively rally was held in Coventry city centre earlier today to mark May Day – International Workers’ Day. The gathering, which was entitled ‘Shout out against austerity’ and linked the battle against the cuts with the fight to defeat racism, gained support from many unions and organisations in the city. It also attracted attention from Coventry shoppers who stopped to listen to the many excellent speeches.

Emma from the junior doctors

Emma from the junior doctors

Speakers included Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Emma from the junior doctors, Sarah Smith from Save Coventry Libraries, David Kersey from UNISON, Kris O’Sullivan from Youth Fight for Jobs and suspended Labour Party member Darrall Cozens speaking for Momentum.

Kris addressing the crowd

Kris addressing the crowd

Young worker and student Kris O’Sullivan, in bringing solidarity from Youth Fight for Jobs and Socialist Students, outlined how workers and students need to unite against the attacks, whether it be around wages, housing or jobs, in a common fightback.

Coventry against Racism and Fascism

Coventry against Racism and Fascism

A major protest against the plans of the English Defence League to march in Coventry on Saturday 21st May is planned and speakers urged maximum attendance at this event, to show opposition to those that seek to divide working class people.

Jane Nellist, secretary of Coventry TUC with Sarah Smith

Jane Nellist, secretary of Coventry TUC with Sarah Smith

Many speakers made the link between the cuts taking place in our city with the need to fight not only austerity, but the capitalist system that breeds unemployment, racism, homelessness, environmental destruction and an uncertain future for working class people. May Day gives us an opportunity to redouble our efforts to fight for a socialist future across the planet. Socialist Party members gave out hundreds of leaflets advertising the election campaign of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and sold 40 copies of the May Day special issue of our weekly newspaper, The Socialist.