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

“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!

Coventry – Why are our politicians failing us?

Coventry- Why are our politicians failing us?

Coventry

Coventry

We are pleased to publish this article by Jane Nellist, a leading trade unionist and anti cuts campaigner in our city, regarding the future of Coventry. It is a contribution to a debate about the way forward, how we can develop Coventry and what sort of policies need to be carried out. We welcome any feedback or comments, see bottom of the article about how to do this (to reply on the website rather than sending us a message scroll right to the bottom). It is particularly relevant at the present time with the forthcoming elections and the new development next to Coventry train station.


Coventry is not my birth city but I, like many others, seeking jobs, family or escaping from devastated countries, have made it their home.  Over the last hundred years, the city has grown to become the 10th biggest city in England with a rich mixture of people and cultures.  It is my city now; my three children were born, educated and grew up here.  I have spent over 30 years campaigning alongside my partner who, for nearly 10 of those years, was a Member of Parliament and then for 14 years a councillor in the city.

To know where we are and where we want to get to, we have to know where we have come from.  As a teacher in the city for over 20 years, I am passionate about teaching children about our city.

The medieval Coventry grew rich on wool and trade.  At one time, the city had the richest collection of medieval buildings to rival those of York and other heritage places.  Most of them destroyed by the bulldozers in the name of development not the Luftwaffe who bombed the city in 1940. They had become slums because there had been no investment in them.

The city has always been  at the heart of the pounding Industrial Revolution with a rich variety of skilled workers making watches, ribbon weaving, bicycles, machine tools  and of course cars.  In the boom of the 50s and 60s the city was rich with the highest paid factory workers the country.   The city centre was an amazing shopping experience – renowned as the best outside of London!  How things have changed!

Out of the rubble of the war, with the post war development we describe Coventry as a Phoenix.  The first purpose built shopping precinct, new homes instead of the decrepit ‘courts’ system, full employment with factories booming,  and of course, the ring road, which to some it’s an efficient way of keeping traffic moving around the centre, to others it’s a concrete collar strangling the city centre.

Housing estates grew very rapidly, hugging the city with green spaces, schools, shops, libraries, pubs and clubs and a heart of their own.  Many of those facilities are now closed and demolished – local services such as libraries are under threat as the council revenue is squeezed by government cuts and the Coalition’s Big Society

So what has gone wrong?  Two words come to mind- Recession and Austerity – Capitalism at its most brutish and thuggish.  It gives some of us the ‘good times’ then slaps you down.  It takes the profits and then moves on.  Huge factories across Coventry have closed, replaced with shopping outlets and lower waged businesses or, like Peugeot who closed the Ryton factory with a loss of 2300 jobs and moved the production to Slovakia.

We now have the most Food Banks.  Poverty blights our communities.  Poor housing contributes to poor health.  Benefit and welfare cuts impoverish our population. Low pay blights our communities. The ‘haves’ blame the ‘have not’s’ and the ‘have not’s’ are ignored or pilloried by the politicians.

So what is the Big Plan?  What are our elected officials and ‘city fathers’ doing to revive us?

Local councillors are fast at picking up their allowances but don’t give us much in return. MPs fly under the radar apart from a few articles in the local paper.  Why haven’t they spearheaded campaigns to save our services?   Democracy is suffering in our city. It’s hard to find much difference between Labour and Tories –all the councillors voted to implement huge cuts  with hardly a whimper of protest!  They wouldn’t even organise a protest to Westminster about the unfair cuts to the budget for the city or join other councils in an organised lobby of government.

Our council services are being hacked to pieces; children’s centres, libraries, community centres, resources to charities and voluntary sector services, education services, elderly care and youth services…….the list goes on.  Services that past generations fought for are being wiped out.

The City Council has recently produced the City Plan which identifies land for development and how they are going to meet the need for more housing and employment in our city.

Housing is a huge issue. With thousands on the housing waiting list, more living in over-crowded, poor housing, the Council’s answer is to build thousands of houses with an emphasis on detached housing on the greenbelt – Coventry apparently doesn’t have enough detached housing!

Our priority must be to urgently build affordable, low rent high quality family homes to relieve the misery. We need to also implement a huge programme of house improvement. Walk around the streets of Coventry and see how many homes need serious structural improvements including re-roofing and a whole host of repairs as well as efficient glazing.

Tenants are being left in the hands of big landlords and private letting agents, many charging exorbitant rents and ‘admin’ fees, often for poor quality housing. In the university areas, landlords have crammed four or more students into what had previously been two-bed properties, pushing families out of the area. This situation has been worsened by the Tory bedroom tax.

There are more and more homeless people visibly living on our streets. These are people who have fallen into a spiral of traps which they can’t get out of. Poor mental health services and the lack of drug and alcohol support programmes, lack of emergency housing, ‘Catch-22’ benefit system and a society that seeks to demonise the homeless mean that they have few ways out. In our city, that should be unacceptable. Everyone should have the right to a home. More supported housing is needed for those most vulnerable.

Over the last few years, the impact of unemployment especially amongst young people, benefit cuts, zero hour contracts and lower wages have had a devastating impact on our communities. Child poverty is going through the roof which has such an impact on young people for potentially, the rest of their life. That’s why I strongly support the demand for £10 an hour minimum wage and an end to zero hour contracts and the restoration of welfare and benefit support for those most in need. This would immediately lift those poorest families in Coventry to start to have a more decent life.

One of the big debates in our city at the moment is the impact of the growth of the two universities in our city- (yes that’s right- Warwick University is geographically within Coventry!) It’s not just about student numbers, although that is a big issue.

As a teacher, it’s great that we have two successful universities. However, there is a growing imbalance in our city, especially with the impact of Coventry University. The foot print of the university on our relatively small city centre is becoming like a big hob nail boot. Now the university is to take over office space used currently by the City Council which is moving into accommodation at the new train station development- Friargate. I hear more and more people commenting on the takeover of the city by the university. Soon our signs on approaching Coventry will say ‘welcome to Coventry University, the Home of Coventry’. We need to call a halt to this.

The proportion of young people in our city is growing and that’s good but many of those are the growing student numbers who only live in the city for only part of the year.   How can we build a successful commercial space when many of those are only here term time?

Coventry does have a great future if we have a plan that meets the needs of all of it’s people.

We need more investment and better paid jobs for local people. If we don’t have the skills, we need proper training facilities.

We need more resources for our public services especially for our elderly. The development of the over 50 complex at The Butts is great but what about those who do not have the wealth to move in there?

Too many elderly people who have given their working life to the companies who have made loads of money out of their labour are not receiving the care they need now. Too many private care homes are poor quality. Council Care homes are being closed. We need resources quickly to make their life more comfortable and enjoyable.

Our shopping centre suffers, as do many others with competition from out of city shopping citadels. Other towns and cities, easily accessible, offer a more pleasant shopping experience, so they say.  Empty shops, a plethora of charity shops, pound shops, betting and pawn shops as well temporary pop-up shops seem to be the norm in our city.  Many of the locally owned shops struggle with high rates in the city centre so you end up with the same High Street companies vying for our hard earned pounds- or credit.  At night, the city centre closes down and becomes a dead zone. No vibrant café culture for us. Clubs closing down and too few places for our young people to let off steam and dance the night away!

With the axing of youth centres across the city, there are few places for young people to meet up.  Entertainment is expensive and if you have not got the money, street corners are the only place to congregate.  We need better resources for our young people.

There are also fewer public toilets and baby changing/feeding places in the city.  We should have more. They need to be well lit, clean  and safe.

There is no doubt that our Phoenix is not in good health at all!  Our city is now a ‘Marmot’ city- a city that has been identified because of poor health indicators and health inequalities.  We have some of the lowest life expectancy in our poorest areas.  Some may say we are ‘Marmite’ city- you love it or hate it!  The latest atrocity is the new Study Inn in the old AXA building- a tetris or lego block, gaudy in its red grey and black garb. How did we allow this? The 3 spires are supposed to be the focal point.

There are some great things happening in the city- Fargo in Gosford Street is amazing and a breath of fresh air, Ego theatre, Artspace and other art venues, Warwick Arts Centre is the biggest outside of London.  Where people stand firm, we can win- look at the success of Charterhouse. By standing firm, residents have won and not only kept the field and the Charterhouse buildings but also, with Lottery Heritage funding, the facilities will be enhanced.  If it had been left up to the council, those community resources would have  been lost forever.

We have a great tourist trade with the Cathedrals and other historic buildings such as the world renowned Coventry Transport Museum, but we don’t harness it.  Our city should be buzzing at night with all of the varied restaurant and culture we have to offer.

The Herbert Gallery and Museum has a great collection and fantastic visiting exhibitions. We have the Two Tone Village which celebrates our rich musical heritage and of course the Belgrade Theatre.

Often, it’s hard to find out what is going on in the city- we are not good at telling people until it has happened!  It’s even harder if you have limited resources.  How often are venues half full or audiences that quite frankly are not representative of our population? – wouldn’t it be great if prices were reduced so that it could be more accessible.    I believe that we should have more free events. Culture should be at the heart of the city and accessible to all.  The Godiva festival is a great example how Coventry comes together with a free event.  Even that is now threatened with the Council cuts.

If you tell me that all of this is pie in the sky and that there is no money, ask yourself- Why are the rich getting so much richer? How come bankers are still getting over £80 billion in bonuses alone? Of course there is money, it’s just that we don’t control where it is spent. That’s why I am voting for TUSC in this election because there is a different way forward.

So what should we campaign for to ensure a brighter future for our city? :

  • Build more affordable housing in the city. Homes that are energy efficient. Mixed housing, flats and family homes with gardens. This is an urgent priority.
  • Ensure all brown field sites are utilised fully for priority housing and employment.
  • We should protect Green Belt land. It’s not ‘nimbyism’, the Green Belt belongs to everyone and should be protected for leisure pursuits with quality footpaths for wheelchair use and pushchairs and cycleways.
  • Improve the public transport system making it cheaper for people to use. Expand the ‘ring and ride’ so that those with certain needs can take part in the wider life of the city.
  • Build homes for people in the city centre. We need to re-populate the city centre. Stop the city becoming a student village with companies making huge amounts of profit out of students.
  • Stop the use of family homes for students and put more duties on landlords to look after the properties, including ensuring that homes are safe and well repaired, keeping entries accessible and clear of rubbish. Multiple occupancy homes should be registered with higher standards. If landlords fail to meet standards then have powers to transfer the homes to council ownership.
  • Build high quality student accommodation in other areas of the city.
  • Restore the Street Warden scheme and increase street cleaning. Ensure that there are facilities for people to get rid of bulky rubbish instead of dumping it on street corners.
  • Curb the development of the two Universities. There is a serious imbalance within the City Centre which is becoming increasingly Coventry University campus. Encourage the University to open up their facilities for the people of Coventry.
  • An immediate increase of the minimum wage to £10 hour for all workers whatever their age.
  • End zero hours contracts and limit the use of agency workers.
  • Increase the number of Apprentices with proper training, an increase in pay and a guaranteed job at the end of the training.
  • In conjunction with the Universities and Colleges, set up training programmes for those unemployed to equip them with skills for jobs.
  • Initiate an urgent city wide investigation into Child Poverty tasked with drawing up a plan to eradicate it in our city.
  • Stop the closure of libraries and other local services.
  • Increase Adult Education in the city.
  • Expand leisure and health facilities in the city. We should be building a 50 metre pool in the city.
  • Develop community facilities in local areas around Coventry. These should be freely accessible offering a wide range of entertainment, education and proper public information sessions.

Agree, disagree? Leave a comment or contact us if you want to get involved!

#CovBudget2015 – what happened, and what should have happened

#CovBudget2015 – what happened, and what should have happened

TUSC supporters protesting outside the Council House

TUSC supporters protesting outside the Council House

At Coventry Council’s budget meeting on Tuesday February 24th, the governing Labour group voted unanimously to support a budget containing £15million worth of cuts. These cuts will lead to the closure of libraries, adult education centres, children’s centres, and the sacking of many council workers including lollipop men and women.

The National Chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), former MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, handed in a 1,500 strong petition against the cuts to the Cabinet meeting held in the morning before the budget “debate”. When presenting the petition, Dave argued that the council should use their reserves to fund services and build a campaign to get the money back from central Government, and campaign for an incoming Government to provide financial relief to councils which used reserves to fund services.

Dave pointed out that the council has doubled its reserves from £40million to £80million, as well as making political decisions to use reserves for the ACL loan (£14million), investing in Coombe Abbey hotel (over £6million) and £millions more in Study Inn sites – “why don’t they make the political decision to use these reserves to fund services we need now, not for projects in 5, 6 or 7 years time?”

“This is nothing new. 40 years ago the Council faced cuts from a Labour Government under the IMF, and the Council leader, Arthur Waugh Sr., called a meeting in St Mary’s Hall of every Labour local authority, to call on the Labour Government not to make cuts.” Dave Nellist

In his brief response to reject the petition, Labour councillor Damian Gannon, Cabinet member for finance, claimed that reserves cannot legally be used – we would strongly challenge this claim, and ask under what law is it illegal for the council to use its own reserves? Even Tory minister Eric Pickles has called on councils to use reserves, and he isn’t known for advocating illegal budgets!

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

Mr Gannon also claimed that the majority of the reserves cannot be used – however, even taking into account the £18million set aside for schools, the £10million the council plans to spend on privately-built old people’s homes (which should be built by the council, not private businesses), £4million for Ofsted improvements and around £3.5million that the council has used to fund children’s services and disabled children’s transport (demonstrating that the reserves can be used to fund expenditure!), there is around £45.5million left. Instead of setting this money aside for future projects, or “for a rainy day”, the council should acknowledge that it’s already “raining” and use it now!

If the councillors believed that the election of a Labour Government in May would make a difference, they could begin campaigning now for an incoming Labour Government to reverse all cuts, restore funding to local Government and reimburse any money the council had to use from reserves. However, despite council leader Ann Lucas’ theatrical prayer for a Labour Government in the council chamber, the evidence suggests that they know a Labour Government will act in the same way as the Tories. Perhaps they have heeded the words of their director of finance, Chris West, who said recently that “there is very little difference between the financial plans of the two main parties. Whoever wins the next election, the picture is broadly the same.”

Reflecting on the Cabinet meeting at which the petition was rejected, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist and community campaigner Robert McArdle said “It seems as though Labour councillors are willing to use reserves for anything except fighting cuts, and aren’t prepared to mount a battle against austerity.”

TUSC activist and Socialist Party member Rob McArdle at a protest against library closures

TUSC activist and Socialist Party member Rob McArdle at a protest against library closures

Before the budget meeting in the afternoon a group of trade unionists and socialists lobbied the council to ask the councillors going in if they would vote against cuts. Sadly none of the councillors were swayed – we believe this shows the need for an anti-austerity challenge at the next election, to elect councillors who will listen and fight.

The budget meeting was more eventful than most council meetings, particularly as the opposition to cuts throughout was demonstrated by the presentation of 3 petitions against library closures – one of them presented by Labour cllr Ram Lakha, who went on to vote for the budget which will probably lead to the closure of the libraries!

Labour’s Damian Gannon moved the budget, which was described by a Tory cllr as “a Gannon korma not a Nellist vindaloo”! Even this is perhaps flattering to the budget, however, which many people across Coventry will have found hard to swallow.

For the most part the budget consisted of “tangible service cuts that our residents will see and feel”, in cllr Gannon’s own words. However, the proposal of a £500,000 “transition fund” to enable “community groups” to run services was notable. This concept chimes perfectly with David Cameron’s vision of a “big society”, in which the state and local government have ceased to run services and they are instead taken over by volunteers – not the first time that our Labour council has echoed Tory values.

While volunteers can do valuable work, a team of untrained individuals, however dedicated, will not be able to run services as effectively as trained staff. The council is using this fund as a way to distract from the massive damage these cuts will cause. It is also important to ask how much of this £500K will be going to private vultures like PriceWaterhouseCooper, who the council have previously used?

TUSC activist Dan Crowter asks a Labour cllr to vote against the cuts

TUSC activist Dan Crowter asks a Labour cllr to vote against the cuts

Cllr Gannon said that the council has “no choice but to make cuts”, and “has made bold and brave decisions”. A bold and brave decision would be to fight the cuts, not do the Tories’ dirty work!

During council leader Ann Lucas’ speech, despite appealing to the trade unions to work with the council, she attacked their position towards the council as “drivel” and criticised the “outraged middle class” for protesting against cuts. We want the council to work with the trade unions as well – but we want them to work together to fight the cuts, not make them.

Coventry Council does have a choice. They could use their reserves to fund services and build a campaign against cuts – but they’ve chosen instead to make ordinary people pay with our jobs and services. Cllr Gannon rightly said that the Tories are “on the side of the few not the many” – but which side are Labour on?

The Socialist Party will keep building the campaign against austerity within the trade unions, in our communities and in elections as part of TUSC . We will also campaign against the capitalist system, the cause of austerity – and replace it with a socialist system, run by the millions not the millionaires.

Coventry anti-cuts diary!

Coventry anti-cuts diary!

Protestors outside the Council House

Protestors outside the Council House

In the next few weeks there are a number of anti-cuts protests and meetings in and around Coventry. Please make every effort to attend these events – we need to build a mass movement against austerity and capitalism!

Saturday 21st February – Coventry Against the Cuts march in the City Centre, assembling at 12 noon outside the Transport Museum. There will be a number of speakers from different trade unions and campaigns in the city including the campaign to save the libraries!

Monday 23rd February – Save Our Libraries “read-in” outside the Council House at 4.45pm! Please bring yourselves, your families and library books for a read in on the council house steps!

Tuesday 24th February – Lobby of Coventry Council’s budget meeting, outside the Council House, 1-2pm. Coventry’s Labour councillors are betraying the people of this city by passing on cuts and doing the Tories dirty work – come along and tell them to fight back!

Wednesday 25th February – 24 hour FBU strike, look out for details of pickets and support our firefighters!

Wednesday 25th February – Dave Nellist will be speaking at the launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition election campaign in Coventry, 7.30pm at the Methodist Central Hall. We need an alternative to austerity – the Socialist Party is standing as part of TUSC across Coventry! TUSC is the only party that pledges to vote against cuts – come along to our election launch and find out more.

Tuesday 3rd March – Save Our Libraries meeting, 7pm at the Methodist Central Hall. The National Union of Teachers has organised this meeting with authors Alan Gibbons and Cathy Cassidy, as well as local library campaigners and a national NUT speaker. Don’t let Coventry Council close our libraries!

Saturday 14th March – Midlands Conference of the National Shop Stewards Network, 12-4pm, Unite Offices, 211 Broad Street, Birmingham, B15 1AY. This conference is for trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners throughout both East and West Midlands to come together and work out solutions to problems we face in our unions and our workplaces. There will be speakers from different trade unions as well as workshops to discuss the fight against austerity.

Coventry trade union leader speaks out against library closures

Coventry trade union leader speaks out against library closures

Jane Nellist (second from left) on a previous demo in defence of the NHS

Jane Nellist (second from left) on a previous demo in defence of the NHS

The following letter from Jane Nellist was carried in a recent issue of the Coventry Telegraph. Jane is a leading member of the National Union of Teachers, secretary of Coventry TUC and member of the Socialist Party. Jane outlines in this letter why library closures should be opposed, and why we must all oppose the idea that they are run on a charity shop basis as is proposed by the Council.

‘As a representative of the National Union of Teachers in Coventry, representing over 1,800 teachers, we are extremely concerned with the city council’s intention to reduce dramatically the number of public libraries in Coventry.

We believe that libraries are uniquely placed to help foster engagement in reading. They offer free access to learning and a ‘safe’ space for children and young people to study and access resources.

They can help students to develop their confidence and motivation, seeing themselves as readers outside school and, therefore, read more widely and independently. They will offer a far wider range of reading materials than the school can offer, inspiring students to extend their reading tastes.

Librarians are key to this service. The fact that councillors are even suggesting that we can run libraries on a ‘charity shop’ model with volunteers is an insult to our library service.

Councillor Kershaw rightfully points to them being a ‘golden thread running throughout our lives’ (Telegraph, Jan 16). These cuts, supported by both political parties, will turn that 24 carat gold to fool’s gold if they succeed with this plan.

Libraries are a treasure of information and imagination and we must all join together to fight to keep all our libraries as well as oppose all cuts. Let’s unite to defend the services that matter to us and not be divided by the canker of austerity.

Jane Nellist,

​Joint secretary and national executive member,

Coventry NUT’

Agree with Jane?

Then join the demonstration against cuts including the closure of the libraries

Saturday 21st February, assemble 12pm, outside Coventry Transport Museum. Facebook event page here

A letter from America – solidarity with the NHS strike

A letter from America – solidarity with the NHS strike

Defend the NHS!

Defend the NHS!

We are proud to publish this letter from a health care worker and trade unionist from the United States regarding the strike in the National Health Service on Monday 24th November. The letter highlights the inequalities present in the healthcare system under capitalism particularly in the United States. We urge you to read the letter, share it on social media and amongst workmates, friends and family. Under capitalism any gains for working class people such as the NHS will constantly be under threat, that is why we in the Socialist Party fight for a socialist society – if you agree, why not join us? Click here to apply to join

Letter from a health worker in the United States

Fight for decent pay!

Healthcare should be about patient care – not profits!

The current offer – for only some NHS workers in England to receive a 1% one off payment is an insult to the work that nurses and other health professionals do. It will only discourage bright, young, energetic people from entering the field and push those with experience working in the field out. The job can be both highly rewarding, yet also very stressful and dangerous (with patients attacking staff more frequently than many people realize). NHS workers should not be living in poverty and deserve to at least keep their pay up with inflation!

The chaotic profit-oriented nature of the U.S. healthcare system shows what can happen if the NHS is allowed to be privatized. In Dallas in October a man recently arrived from Liberia without health insurance was sent home from the emergency room with tylenol and antibiotics for his fever. It turned out he had ebola! Hospitals in the U.S. have a strong incentive not to admit patients who don’t have health insurance. When he came back and was admitted, two of the nurses caring for him contracted ebola. It turns out the hospital not only didn’t have full body protective equipment for the nurses, they also weren’t trained on the equipment they had and the nurses were also taking care of other patients at the same time! This shows how quickly hospitals will cut corners with our and our patients’ health and safety in the interest of saving a dollar.

When someone without insurance is admitted to a hospital, it can mean their financial ruin. A woman from Canada recently gave birth in the U.S. when she went into labor early while on vacation. She received a $1 million hospital bill! The leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical bills. While Obama’s Affordable Care Act has made it easier for some people to get health insurance, for those who have quality health insurance through their job (like many nurses), the employers (and ultimately employees) will be forced to pay an additional expensive tax on their plans intended to discourage quality health insurance plans from existing!

Many nurses in the U.S. are relatively well paid and usually have health insurance and retirement benefits through their job. This has nothing to do with the private healthcare system in my opinion and everything to do with having unions in many parts of the country who have fought back and defeated attacks on health insurance, retirement, and have frequently gotten raises that keep up with inflation. After a national day of action for ebola safety on November 12th, which included strikes in California and Washington, D.C., mandatory guidelines for high standard ebola protection gear – in line with what the union was demanding – were instituted in the state of California. This recent example shows that it is worth organizing and going on strike when necessary! When we fight – we win!

Katie Quarles, RN

Shop Steward with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) at United Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota (personal capacity)

Labour Council plans to close 100 essential local centres

Labour Council plans to close 100 essential local centres

Coventry City Council plans more cuts

Coventry City Council plans more cuts

 

Coventry’ Labour Council has announced it is to close almost every children and family centre, community centre, play centre, adult education centre, library and suburban office in the city.

The plan, called City Centre First, should be renamed ‘City of London First’ as it’s an abject surrender to an austerity agenda seeking to force working class people and their families to pay for the gambling and speculation of the banks.

City Centre First will rip the heart out of virtually every community in Coventry. It reverses decades of investment from the Council Tax of hundreds of thousands of Coventry residents, into our communities, our neighbourhoods. Hardly a family in the city will be untouched as dozens of public facilities close, and as the few remaining services are re-located, for some, many miles away.

Closures are not necessary

These cuts and closures are not necessary. And it isn’t ‘the only way to deliver a balanced budget’ as has been claimed by Labour’s finance chief, Cllr Damian Gannon.

Coventry Council has reserves of tens of millions of pounds – much of it put aside to fund staff redundancies, to pay for the axing of another 1000 jobs that will then never be available to young people in our city. A proportion of those reserves should be used to preserve jobs and services and offset the shortfall in government funding. This would buy time whilst the Council mounts a serious campaign for the Government to properly fund our essential local services. Council unions should offer to work with the Council in a joint campaign for funding for the needs of the city – but be prepared to take resolute action against the Council if they continue with their plan of surrender.

Cuts and closures must be challenged

Labour seem to have given up the fight without ever engaging the enemy. When the Tories say “jump”, they merely ask “how high?” They no longer challenge whether widespread swingeing cuts are necessary, only ­how they are to be implemented.  Unlike the success of socialist Liverpool in the mid-1980s (when the equivalent of nearly £90 million extra funding was won by a Labour council from Mrs Thatcher), this generation of Labour councillors see no prospect of changing a Tory government’s mind (and David Cameron is no Mrs Thatcher!).

And unlike previous generations of Coventry Labour councillors, such as led by Cllr Arthur Waugh Snr in the 1970s who, when faced with demands for making government cuts into local services, organised a meeting in St Mary’s Hall of Labour council leaders from all around the country to stand together and tell the then Labour Government that cuts demanded by the International Monetary Fund had to be opposed. Today, each Labour council around the country is making similar cuts, instead of standing up to the Tory bullies.

Whoever wins the General Election, working people will suffer

You would think that Labour would be explaining that this was all the Tories’ fault, and that if Labour wins the election next May then the rot would stop and the onslaught of cuts would be reversed. But no; Coventry Labour council assumes that even if their party wins the General Election, Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has promised to match Tory spending cuts £ for £. The demands for service cuts in Coventry in 2016 and 2017 will continue and, whoever wins the General Election, rise to £65 million a year in 3 years’ time.  Indeed the Council report announcing these cuts and closures makes these predictions based on “the Government’s June 2013 Spending Round and subsequent indicative announcements of the main political parties nationally”.

In other words it doesn’t matter which of the 4 main national parties you vote for next May, all the national establishment parties are agreed that our local services should be sacrificed to settle the bankers’ debts.  And equally it doesn’t matter if the cuts are made enthusiastically by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in London, or with a heavy heart by Labour in Coventry, they will hurt just the same.

If Coventry Labour councillors are not prepared to fight, they should stand aside and let people on the Council who are willing to fight for Coventry.

Campaigns

100 essential local centres are targeted for closure, and out of many of those will come campaigns of angry local people, parents, service users and staff determined to save their local service. But, scandalously, Labour have said that they might not even consult those local people about these plans because, according to the Coventry Telegraph, ‘the closures were viewed as inevitable’. That will be strongly challenged.

And the closures themselves are not inevitable. Local people can force changes in agendas. Petitions, local meetings, delegations to councillors, lobbies of the city council itself – all will be used to press for a change in direction. But if the success in saving one library or community centre is not to mean that something else gets cut even more elsewhere, local cuts campaigns will have to come together in a citywide body and challenge the whole strategy of accepting massive central government funding cuts without question. To get that change means electing people onto the Council who are prepared to fight.

TUSC – the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

The Socialist Party and our partners in TUSC will work with communities, service users and staff in Coventry, and support each and every campaign seeking to save a local service. As part of our work we will discuss with local campaigns and argue that they should put up anti-cuts candidates in every ward in the city next May, standing under the TUSC umbrella alongside over 1000 similar anti-cuts candidates around the country, all pledged to save local services.

By standing in such large numbers we begin to take that fight to London, and begin to force the media to broaden the debate beyond the speed of cuts, to whether cuts should take place at all!

And if voting Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat or UKIP all mean largely the same diet of cuts to our family services, so that their banker friends can carry on receiving bonuses, then TUSC will mount the largest left of Labour General Election challenge across the whole country seen since the Second World War.

We need a new politics

The cuts aren’t necessary. The rich individuals and corporations presently avoiding or evading £120 billion a year in taxation should be made to pay – not child and family centres, libraries and youth clubs. We have to shift the argument back from ‘how-to’ implement the cuts, to ‘whether’ cuts should be implemented at all.

We need a new politics in this country and TUSC is determined to build one, rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class. Help us challenge the overlapping austerity agenda of the big establishment parties, and build a new political force that doesn’t ignore working people nor leave them behind.

Dave Nellist

National Chair TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

Agree with Dave and want to help? Please fill in the form below

Reject the pay proposal!

Reject the pay proposal!

An appeal to all members of GMB, UNISON and UNITE….Reject the pay proposal! Restart the industrial action to win fair pay!

Reject the pay proposal!

Reject the pay proposal!

The following is the text of the Issue 20 of The Cov Council Socialist – a bulletin produced by and for local authority workers in Coventry

By a union steward at Coventry City Council

Tuesday 14th October should have seen over 1 million council workers take industrial action in the campaign to win a fair pay deal. This was due to be part of a 3 day programme of industrial action, with colleagues in the NHS taking action on the Monday, UCU members in Further Education (UCU also stopped their strike) as well council workers on Tuesday and PCS in the Civil Service on Wednesday.

Just a few days before our action started, the leaderships of GMB, UNISON and UN ITE agreed to suspend the action because the Labour controlled Local Government Association (LGA), our employers, had made a new proposal.

The new ‘offer’ is an ‘indecent proposal’

We believe that to suspend the action was a mistake for a number of reasons. The proposal does not go anywhere near solving the chronic problem of low pay in local government. Years of real term pay cuts have seen us get worse and worse off. The proposal is still not a formal offer, and they want to give us 2.2 per cent over two years. This actually leaves us worse off this pay year (2014-15) than the “derisory” 1% offer from the employer we took action over in July and costs the employer less. In January 2015, 2.2% will be added to all pay spines to last until 31 March 2016. It’s a cunningly presented two year response to a one year pay claim attempt to buy off and shut up low paid council workers in the run up to a general election.

A 2 year deal designed to avoid any pay disputes in the first year of a potential Labour government? Pay cuts hurt whether they are from a Tory or Labour government / LGA!

It would be a big mistake for us to accept a 2 year pay deal, particularly one that is so sub-standard. The proposal appears to want to put the issue of pay well and truly off the agenda until 2016. The rate of inflation could easily go up, but our pay would be stuck. This means we would continue to experience a fall in our standard of living, and keep things ‘nice and quiet’ for Ed Miliband in the first year of a Labour government. This is wrong firstly because it is by no means certain Labour will get elected, and secondly they have already stated they will be signing up Tory spending plans. Union members need to come before the interests of a Labour Party which supports Tory austerity. Once again this shows the need for the unions to break the link with Labour.

Reject the proposal and restart the action

We all know that although the strike on 10th July was about pay, in reality it was also about the attacks on our jobs, terms and condition and the defence of public services.  It is always a difficult decision to strike however we were left with no alternative and in most areas the strike was well supported. Preparations had been made for 14th October and by suspending the strike the union leaderships have shown weakness and we risk losing momentum and the chance of co-ordinated action with other public sector unions.

Socialists in the council unions will be campaigning for the maximum possible rejection of the proposal and for the restarting of the action. Linked to this, we need to campaign to transform our unions in to democratic, combative organisations that are prepared to lead a concerted and bold fight against pay cuts and austerity.

If you agree with the above, we urge you to get in contact with us to help campaign to get the proposal rejected and to help build the voice of socialism in the unions. Please fill in the form below

J10 in Coventry – report and pictures

J1o in Coventry – report and pictures

Picket at Central Library

Picket at Central Library

This is a brief report of the fantastic action against austerity taken by the trade unions today.

Fuller analysis to come.

Across the country over 1.5 million public sector workers took action today against pay cuts, attacks on pensions and in defence of public services.

6 unions took action in the city, Unison, Unite, GMB, FBU, NUT and PCS and the day had more than a passing resemblance to that historic day of strike action on 30th November, 2011 when we took action over our pensions.

Picket at Fullwood Close

Picket at Fullwood Close

Picket lines were mounted at workplaces around the city, coming together with a rally of around 500 people in Broadgate Square and then a loud, vibrant march around the city centre. This was a real show of unity between the unions, and shows the potential for co-ordinated action. Today needs to be the spring board for future action. It would be nothing less than a crime if this opportunity was squandered as was the case in the aftermath of N30, 2011, as leaders of the larger trade unions allowed the unity between our unions to be destroyed.

Picket of Spire House

Picket of Spire House

The rally heard from some excellent speakers from all the unions involved who highlighted the dire situation facing workers and their families.

There was an international dimension to proceedings, which was very important given that workers in all countries face similar problems – of the 1 per cent trying to make the 99 per cent pay for the crisis of capitalism. Therefore it was a massive boost to hear Ginger Jentzen from the $15now campaign and Socialist Alternative in the USA. Ginger explained to loud cheers and applause how the campaign in Seattle had won $15 per hour minimum wage, taking 100,000 workers outs of poverty.

Ginger Jentzen address the rally

Ginger Jentzen addresses the rally

The sun shone brightly on the action today. Many reports from picket lines explained how in a good number of cases the action was supported even more than during the pensions strike, and it re-stated the importance of picketing with some success in persuading fellow workers not to cross the line.

A section of the march

A section of the march

Today could be a start towards further action. It is critical the days in September that have been ‘pencilled in’ for further action are seriously committed to and built for. Socialist Party members in the trade unions will be putting forward the idea of building towards more co-ordinated action, including a 24 hour general strike. We have to build the biggest possible pressure in the trade unions for further action, the unions have the power, time to use it!

Unison members from John Gulson Primary School

Unison members from John Gulson Primary School

 

PCS picket line

PCS picket line