“22 tower blocks in Coventry don’t have sprinklers” – a Coventry tower block resident speaks out after the Grenfell fire

“22 tower blocks in Coventry don’t have sprinklers” – a Coventry tower block resident speaks out after the Grenfell fire

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We have recieved the below article from a resident of a tower block in Coventry following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London. Please read and share this important article.

The disaster at Grenfell Tower in London, where a fire ripped through the 24-storey tower block early last Wednesday morning leaving a death toll which now stands at 79 and is expected to rise, is a damning indictment of the greed and profit-driven capitalist system.

It has long been clear that working class lives have never been held in anything but contempt by the capitalists and their representatives, and now – not for the first time – they have blood on their hands. The exact cause of the fire is not yet known. But the use of flammable cladding to plaster the outside of the building is believed to have been a major factor in turning the entire tower block into a deadly inferno. This is the same cladding that is banned for use on buildings above 40 feet in the USA, and is classed as a ‘flammable’ material in Germany, despite conforming to UK regulations.

What is even worse is the fact that the fire-resistant version of the cladding would have cost developers only £5,000 extra to use – that is, £2 more per square metre than the flammable cladding they did use.

Residents of the tower wrote in November 2016 that “only a catastrophic event …  an incident that results in serious loss of life … a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property” would lead to changes being implemented by their landlord. They were ignored. They have now been proven right, in tragic circumstances.

The disaster has sparked huge anger amongst many working class people, leading to major demonstrations and protests which saw Kensington Town Hall stormed by large numbers of people, and Theresa May having to be bundled safely into a car away from angry demonstrators amid cries of “Murderer! Murderer!”

This has left the government in complete disarray – with May refusing to meet residents because of “security concerns”, and even having to admit that “support on the ground for families who needed help or basic informatiom in the initial hours after this appalling disaster was not good enough.” This stands in stark contrast to the way Jeremy Corbyn actually met with the residents, and who is demanding that Theresa May promise a full, independent and meaningful public enquiry into the disaster. This contrast is not lost on residents and the friends and relatives of those affected – as shown by the scenes of the angry questioning of Tory MP Andrea Leadsom when she visited people as to why the Prime Minister and other senior Tories had not visited them, whilst Jeremy Corbyn did.

The Grenfell tragedy has been one long in the making. Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s newly-appointed Chief of Staff, who was the Housing Minister before the election, actually delayed a review into fire safety in high-rise apartments. It is also worth remembering that back in 2012, The Independent reported then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s intention to “kill off safety culture”, declaring that “we need to realise, collectively, that we cannot eliminate risk and that some accidents are inevitable”. This abhorrent contempt and lack of value for working class lives shows itself starkly with the promise from Theresa May of a £5million emergency fund for victims – the rough value of a single terraced house in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in the country!

It has also been reported that the flammable cladding was used to help improve the view for those living in the nearby luxury houses.  We have said that they have blood on their hands – this was an act of corporate murder, and the shocking lack of health and safety standards has worried many people across the country, concerned at just how safe their own homes are.

Here in Coventry, WM Housing (which owns Whitefriars) has revealed that just two of their 24 tower blocks have a sprinkler system installed! Living in a Whitefriars-run tower block myself I noticed they quickly put up some fire safety notices inside the ground floor entrance a couple of days after the Grenfell fire. They also put a leaflet through every letterbox which confirmed our tower block did have a sprinkler installed – but in the immediate vicinity there are a total of 3 tower blocks which they also maintain. As WM Housing have said only 2 tower blocks across Coventry have a sprinkler, it begs the question as to why only one or two tower blocks out of three in the same area may have one!

The failure to have properly sorted out even these simple and surely basic standards up until now does not fill me with confidence. When I moved into the flat there weren’t even any smoke alarms installed!

Coventry Council has confirmed that it will be carrying out safety inspections in tower blocks over 6 storeys tall. However, they have exempted Whitefriars-run blocks from the inspections because they “have already provided assurances to the council that their buildings are up to the relevant fire safety standards”. Assurances are not good enough – all blocks should be inspected, along with other public buildings, to ensure they meet safety standards. Landlords in the private rented sector should also be forced to ensure their properties are safe and fit for human habitation.

We cannot afford a system which treats our lives with such contempt, and gives them so little value in comparison to those whose interests it was created solely to represent. We must have a break with this system – the capitalist system, driven purely by profit and greed, a system which looks after the interests of big business and the 1%. We must fight for socialism – to change society and run it in the interests of working class people, under whose democratic control the economy and industry would be planned. Anything less will eventually leave us with a repeat of the Grenfell tragedy.

Coventry Socialist Party calls for:

Justice for Grenfell – get the property developers and Kensington Council in the dock.

Reverse fire service cuts – fund our emergency services properly. End the pay freeze.

Inspections and a full review of safety procedures across housing, council buildings, schools, colleges and universities in Coventry. All tower blocks and schools should have sprinkler systems installed.

Campaign for all housing, private and social, to meet safety standards. No cutting corners for profit.

Organise for action, rent strikes and walkouts if our safety can’t be guaranteed – no safety means no work, no rent and no school!

Do you agree? Get in touch!

Hundreds march in Coventry against cuts to local services

Hundreds march in Coventry against cuts to local services

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Coventry Against The Cuts march through the City Centre

Between 2-300 people marched through Coventry on Saturday 21st in a protest against enormous cuts to local services. The march, organised by Coventry TUC and Coventry Against the Cuts, united activists from a variety of trade unions and community campaigns. Flags and banners from Unison, Unite, FBU, NUT and other unions, as well as placards from “Save Our Libraries” campaigners showed the wide range of people who marched.

Many speakers concentrated on Coventry’s Labour council’s role in implementing Tory cuts. Socialist Party member Nicky Downes, Coventry NUT President, called for councillors to “stand up and fight”.

A Unison member who works in a library gave an impassioned speech outlining the current situation which received a loud response from the crowd.

An official from the FBU brought support from his union which was greatly appreciated – firefighters are on strike on Wednesday from 7am for 24 hours in their battle with the government.

Coventry’s Labour Council has already been forced to give some concessions to protesters such as delaying the planned cuts to disabled children’s transport and library closures for a year. This has been the result of campaigning by community groups and unions (especially Unison) across the city including thousands signing petitions and organised protests. Members of the Socialist Party and TUSC have played a role in this for example in Tile Hill and Stoke. The key thing is that protest clearly works!

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Picture from Coventry Telegraph

The budget proposals still include plans to close or reduce many vital services, including youth centres, community centres and even public toilets.

As Dave Nellist pointed out, the council has £81million+ in reserves that they could use to fund services while building a campaign against cuts alongside the people of Coventry, to demand central Government gives our city the money we need for decent services. If our Labour councillors won’t do that, we should replace them with people who will.

One of the most lively groups on the march was a section of young Socialists, including students from Coventry and Warwick University and local sixth forms, many of whom wore bright “£10 Now” shirts to support the campaign for a £10 an hour minimum wage.

There are a number of anti-cuts events this week in Coventry, please get along and show your support for the fight against austerity!

Looking Back At 2014’s Heroes And Villains!

Looking Back at 2014’s Heroes and Villains!

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2014 was a year that showed the brutal nature of capitalism on many occasions – and also the strength and power ordinary people have when we fight back! So here’s our list of 2014’s heroes and villains.

 “Sir” Nigel Thrift

For Warwick University’s Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift, he began 2014 as he ended it – by giving himself a pay rise! As we reported in January, the inappropriately named Thrift increased his pay from £316,000 to £332,000 at the start of the year – he’s just put it up again to £348,000! This means that since “Shifty Thrifty” became VC in 2006, his pay has gone up by 26% – while other workers have seen their pay cut by 6-7% in real terms.

Nigel wondering how much to pay himself next year

Nigel wondering how much to pay himself next year

So what has Nige done to justify this salary? Well, at the start of December he defended the shocking violence used by police against peaceful student protesters – they were CS sprayed, slammed to the floor and threatened with a taser. The University management then sought an injunction against students who were peacefully occupying part of the Rootes building – and successfully managed to ban occupations on campus indefinitely. Despite this, not only has Thrift given himself yet another pay rise – he’s also been given a knighthood!

So Thrift is definitely on our villains list – but it’s not all bad at Warwick!

Warwick Uni Protesters

There were a number of demonstrations at Warwick last year, organised by various different groups. In June, after the media revealed that a member of the openly fascist group National Action was studying at Warwick, over 200 students joined an anti-fascist demo to oppose them and other far-right groups.

Over 1000 students gather at Warwick for #copsoffcampus protest

Over 1000 students gather at Warwick for #copsoffcampus protest

In December after a peaceful sit-in demonstration was viciously attacked by police, Warwick students immediately organised a #CopsOffCampus demo in response, which was attended by around 1000 people! Hundreds of students then occupied the top floor of the Rootes building in protest, and issued a list of demands to the university – rather than responding to the demands, management organised “negotiations” which were a sham, and sought an injunction against the occupiers. Despite this, students are planning to keep fighting in the new year – so they’re very much heroes of 2014!

Ann Lucas

After the actions of Coventry Council in 2014 no list of villains would be complete without including the council’s Labour leader Ann Lucas, who has happily signed off on cuts to thousands of jobs, loads of crucial services and even cut funding to local charities like Coventry Haven.  The council’s “City Centre First” plan, if carried out, will devastate the city’s services.

Protestors outside the Council House

Anti-cuts protestors outside the Council House

The Council also sold the Ricoh Arena to Wasps for a pittance, threatening the existence of CCFC and Cov Rugby Club.

One particularly vicious cut planned by the council was to cut transport to school for disabled children – however they went back on this after a protest outside the council house!

Anti-Cuts Protesters

Throughout the year there have been repeated protests against cuts being carried out by Coventry Council. These have been organised by different organisations including Coventry Against the Cuts, Disabled People Against Cuts and a number of different trade unions – and supported by the Socialist Party and TUSC. As mentioned above, one of these protests – against cuts to disabled children’s transport – forced the council to reverse their plans.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students campaigning against cuts

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Socialist Students campaigning against cuts

The position of Coventry TUC, Coventry Unison, TUSC and the Socialist Party is that the council shouldn’t simply carry out the Tory cuts, but should use some of their £81million reserves to fund services for a year and buy them some time to build a campaign to demand the rest of the money from central Government.

Striking Workers

Workers have been under attack from this Government since they took power, and continued to fight back in 2014. Teachers in the NUT went on strike in April against attacks on the education system, and over 800 joined a rally in Birmingham on the day. The Fire Brigades Union has taken strike action repeatedly throughout the year against the Governments plans to cut their pensions and make them work until they’re 60. PCS members in HMRC also took action in June, and again on July 10th. 6 unions (Unison, Unite, GMB, FBU, NUT and PCS) took action on “J10” and 500 workers rallied in Broadgate against the cuts!

Industrial action is a key weapon available to the working class to fight the bosses – in 2015 we need to develop co-ordinated national industrial action between the unions and develop and support local community campaigns to defend services. At the same time, we should build the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to develop working class political representation that can challenge the Westminster mainstream parties who are united behind the same austerity agenda.

As Russell Brand prepares to take on Farage…time to build the fight for socialist revolution

As Russell Brand prepares to take on Farage…time to build the fight for socialist revolution!

Brand

Brand

Many people across the UK are waiting in eager anticipation for the battle between Russell Brand and Nigel Farage on Thursday night’s BBC Question Time programme (11 December).

Over the recent period Russell Brand has been an outspoken critic of austerity and the political establishment where all three parties, Tory, Labour and Lib Dem, believe ordinary people should pay for the crisis. The 99% suffer at the hands of global capitalism and the 1% at the top continue to prosper. Brand’s series of shows, ‘The Trews’, have become popular as an expression of anger against the system, while his book, simply titled ‘Revolution’, captures the growing mood for change in society.

Meanwhile Farage has falsely painted himself as an opponent of the same political establishment, which is rich considering he is of true right-wing banking stock and would carry out even worse austerity given half the chance. UKIP, despite how it portrays itself, is very much part of the capitalist system, and part of the problem. For example, its two new MPs were recruited from the Conservative Party!

Fire minister Penny Mordaunt is also on the Question Time panel; three days after the latest firefighters’ strike in defence of pensions see the following footage of the demonstration in Buckinghamshire to defend sacked firefighter Ricky Matthews.

However the debate pans out on Thursday night, the Socialist Party is dedicated to fighting for revolutionary change and putting working people in control. There are sufficient resources in Britain and worldwide for us all to lead much better and fulfilled lives but under the status quo it is in fact the outmoded capitalist system which is holding us back.

If you agree with Russell’s call for a revolution and want to fight for socialism we need to make sure it is not just a pipe dream but that collectively we make it a reality.

The time to act is now – The Revolution needs you! Join us in the Socialist Party and our sister parties worldwide in 45 countries as part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, and let us make it happen!

If you are interested in joining with us to build a revolutionary socialist force in Britain and across the globe fill in the form below and we will be in touch.

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Dave Nellist responds to Michael Gove on union ballots

Tories plan further anti-union laws – Dave Nellist responds

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and TUSC

Michael Gove has followed Boris Johnson and other right-wing Tories to demand tighter new rules for strike ballots, which they believe would put an end to virtually all public sector strikes.

The Daily Mail reports – see here – if the Tories win the 2015 General Election that a strike could only take place if it was supported by a majority of the entire membership of the union in the sector concerned voting Yes in a postal ballot.

Dave Nellist, who was an opposition member of Parliament 30 years ago when Tories Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit first introduced postal ballot requirements, comments:

“There isn’t actually a legal right to strike in this country. There are tighter and tighter rules which define whether a strike can lead to employers suing unions whose members take strike action, or not. The current law on postal ballots already makes it hard for unions to conduct a legal ballot, and if all those rules are not complied with employers can sue a union. The proposal of Michael Gove is to set a bigger trap to make it harder for unions to remain immune to that legal action.

At the moment what is required in a ballot for industrial action is a simple majority of those voting. That’s the same principle, as Paul EmberyFBU London secretary, has said, as is required in virtually all votes from elections, through company shareholder meetings, to the X Factor Grand Finale.

It’s not a question of union strike ballots lacking a ‘democratic mandate’. There are few politicians who could pass Michael Gove’s test of only being legitimate if they receive over 50% of those eligible to vote – including Michael Gove himself.

Boris Johnson was elected as London Mayor in 2008 on 19% of those eligible to vote and some Tory Police Commissioners won their elections in 2012 on votes as little as 7% of those eligible to vote! The Tory Party itself in the 2010 election got less than 25% of the 45 million people eligible to vote. Yet they want to impose on trade unions a higher threshold than applies to themselves in elections to public office.

Trade Unionists always want a maximum turnout and a maximum yes vote for any action. And we had much higher turnouts and votes when decisions were made either at mass meetings at workplaces or by ballots issued and collected at workplaces.

The Tories in the 1980s brought in postal ballots to break up the solidarity of workers discussing at work whether an issue demanded strike action (always a last resort) and whether a particular form of strike action could win. They wanted workers atomised, making the decision individually at home, where the influence of the Tory press and mass media could weigh down on workers and their families.

The Tories brought in (and Labour never reversed!) a raft of requirements (to do with nominated addresses, time of ballots, class of worker who could be involved in the balloting, rules on questions, statements warning of breach of contract, separate ballots for separate workplaces and so on) all designed to make it easier to trip up unions.

And employers have been quick to go to court on the tiniest technical detail (including one famous case when, despite a turnout of 78% and a yes vote of 87%, train drivers’ union ASLEF was taken to court, and employers initially won an injunction, because ballot papers had been given to 2 drivers who it turned out were not entitled to vote!).

TUSC is currently arranging trade union delegations to Labour Party prospective parliamentary candidates to see whether any of them are serious about reversing the austerity agenda.

On the issue of trade union rights we will be asking them whether they support the provisions in the Labour MP John McDonnell’s ‘Trade Union Rights and Freedom Bill’, on reintroducing protections for participating in industrial action, unfair dismissal, complaints to employment tribunals, automatic reinstatement, agency labour in industrial disputes, definition of a trade dispute to include associated employers etc (and on other union issues such as the reinstatement of facility time and check off rights removed by the Con Dem coalition).

The nature of their replies on that, as well as on other issues including restoration of public services and benefits, the immediate introduction of a Living Wage, the lifting of the public sector pay cap, and renationalisation (for example of rail and Royal Mail), which are all policies widely supported the trade union movement, will help decide whether local TUSC groups add those constituencies to the list of possible challenges in the 2015 general election.

On Thursday, July 10, 1½ million workers, possibly the biggest number involved in industrial action since 1926, will be sacrificing a day’s wage to make a stand against years of pay freezes; of pensions costing more, paying out less, and arriving years later; and of hundreds of thousands of jobs gone, and many more to come as all politicians seem to accept that austerity in the next Parliament will be sharper than even what we have had so far.

Those on strike will represent millions more who feel the same anger towards the Con Dem government, and who will take heart by those standing up on July 10.

As the prison officers have shown (whose right to strike has been completely removed) when that anger boils over and action is taken it will take more than a new rule from Michael Gove to stop working people challenging austerity.”

Dave Nellist

National Chair, TUSC

 

Fire-fighters rally in Birmingham

Fire-fighters rally in Birmingham

Dave Nellist addresses the FBU rally

Dave Nellist addresses the FBU rally

With just 5 days work, about 150 fire-fighters and their families attended a lunchtime rally on Saturday, June 21 in Victoria Square, Birmingham as part of their campaign against government imposed changes to pensions. Firefighters from Coventry travelled to Birmingham to join their colleagues.

The Tory led coalition is seeking to take the best part of £4000 a year from the wages of fire-fighters in compulsory increases to pension contributions, whilst at the same time raising their retirement age from 55 to 60. If you were at the top of a burning building who would you prefer coming up the ladder to rescue you – a 30-year-old or a 60-year-old?

Many fire-fighters in the audience supported the need for escalation of their action, and in particular welcomed the idea of the FBU joining the action on July 10th currently being balloted for by NUT, Unison, Unite, GMB and PCS.

Pictured is Dave Nellist, national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition who was invited by the regional FBU to be one of the main speakers at the rally.  The solidarity leaflet that Socialist Party members delivered to fire station picket lines around the country on Saturday can be viewed by visiting this link

 

Coventry Firefighters stage strikes over Xmas and New Year

Coventry Firefighters stage strikes over Xmas and New Year

Over the course of the Xmas break, members of the FBU took 3 sets of strike action in the ongoing dispute over pensions, on Xmas eve and New years eve and early in the morning on the 3rd of January. The strikes took place only weeks after it was announced that MP’s would receive a 11 per cent increase in their pay which will also increase their pension entitlement!

Members of the Socialist Party visited the picket line at Radford to show support on each occasion. We urge the maximum support and solidarity for those taking action.

Picket line on Xmas Eve

Picket line on Xmas Eve

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Picket line on New Years Eve

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Picket line on the early hours of 3rd January