Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

Protest against closure of Woodlands Academy

woodlands protest

Protest outside Woodlands Academy (photo Cov Telegraph)

Over 200 staff, parents and pupils gathered outside the gates of Woodlands Academy on a very cold and wet afternoon to protest at the proposals to effectively close Coventry’s only all boys school. Please read and share the below report from Jane Nellist, joint divisional secretary of Coventry National Union of Teachers (NUT) which represents many teaching staff at the school.

A consultation letter was sent to all parents and staff outlining plans to close Woodlands School and merge pupils into the neighbouring Tile Hill Academy, currently an all girls school, and that it would be renamed and become a co-ed school in 2017.

Woodlands School was built in 1954 as a purpose built Comprehensive school, one of the very first Comprehensive schools in the country.  It became an Academy in 2011 even though teachers and unions protested against the proposals and took strike action against the conversion.  At the time, unions warned that there was no guarantees of extra funding and new school buildings. That’s exactly what has happened.

We know that by 2020, Coventry will need to find many more school places for children that are currently in Primary Schools in the city due to population growth, and that’s without accounting for further housebuilding in the city.

This situation highlights the government’s chaotic  education policies with the growth in Academies along with the demise of the Local Authority and sensible democratic accountability, oversight and planning for school places. It is also a consequence of the government’s policy of agreeing to Free school expansion, including a Free school in the area, Finham 2, which has added to the destabilisation of school places in this area of Coventry.

The Department for Education, whilst agreeing to the Free Schools and pushing schools into becoming Academies is failing to step in and support schools. The marketisation of our schools and increased competition, encouraged by the Tories, is proving a disaster.

This has all contributed to the very worrying situation of the planned closure of one of Coventry’s schools, and the job losses of teachers and support staff at Woodlands.

Parents are angry, pupils are unsettled and staff are left with not knowing if they have a job.

Coventry parents, pupils and education staff deserve far better.

 

 

Nellist and left wing trade unionists oppose the EU and say no public money should go to UKIP and Tory campaigns

Nellist and left wing union leaders oppose the EU and say no public money should go to UKIP and Tory campaigns

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

The following letter from Dave Nellist and leading left wing trade unionists appeared in The Guardian newspaper today. The original can be read here

‘Now the referendum has been called , the Electoral Commission has the power to designate who shall be the “official” Remain and Leave campaigns, giving these organisations both political authority and millions of pounds of public resources. We call on the commission not to give taxpayers’ money to the Tory and Ukip-dominated Vote Leave, Leave.EU or Grassroots Out campaigns, or any amalgam of them, in the forthcoming EU referendum. The commission does not have to choose an official campaign at all, if there is not one organisation that adequately represents those supporting a particular outcome to the referendum.

We believe there are millions of trade unionists, young people, anti-austerity campaigners and working-class voters, whose opposition to the big business-dominated EU would not be represented by these organisations.

We condemn the mainstream media for promoting Ukip, Tory and other pro-austerity and racist establishment politicians and organisations as the only exit voices. We call on the Electoral Commission to recognise that a significant proportion of those who will vote against the EU do so because they support basic socialist policies of workers’ rights, public ownership, and opposition to austerity and racism.’
Dave Nellist Ex-Labour MP and chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Janice Godrich President, PCS civil servants union
Sean Hoyle President, RMT transport workers union
John McInally National vice-president, PCS
Peter Pinkney RMT President 2013-2015
Paul McDonnell RMT national executive committee
John Reid RMT NEC
Dave Auger Unison public sector workers union NEC
April Ashley Unison NEC
Roger Bannister Unison NEC
Hugo Pierre Unison NEC
Karen Reissman Unison NEC
Polly Smith Unison NEC
Pete Glover National Union of Teachers NEC
Jane Nellist NUT NEC
Stefan Simms NUT NEC
Chas Berry Napo national vice-chair
Alan Gibson National Union of Journalists NEC
Elenor Haven PCS NEC
Marianne Owens PCS NEC
Paul Williams PCS NEC
Carlo Morelli University and College Union NEC
Richard McEwan UCU NEC
Sean Wallis UCU NEC
Saira Weiner UCU NEC
Mike Forster Unison local government service group executive (SGE)
Huw Williams Unison local government SGE
Gary Freeman Unison health SGE

 

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

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

By Kris O’Sullivan

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

blue coat strike 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coventry 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

#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.

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

Interview with children’s author Cathy Cassidy about library closures

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Cathy Cassidy speaking at NUT “Save Our Libraries” meeting. Nicky Downes centre, Alan Gibbons far left

Around 50 people attended a “Save Our Libraries” meeting on Tuesday 3rd March, organised by the National Union of Teachers. The meeting, chaired by Coventry NUT President and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activist Nicky Downes, heard speeches from authors Alan Gibbons and Cathy Cassidy about the importance of libraries and the campaign to save them.

Socialist Party member Dan Crowter spoke at the meeting about the need for the council to adopt a fighting strategy by using their reserves to buy time, and build a campaign with trade unions and community groups to get the money back from central Government. Afterwards we interviewed children’s author Cathy Cassidy about the campaign.

Dan: Where do you think the campaign to save the libraries should go now?

Cathy: We need to keep it up. This [the one year delay of closures] isn’t breathing space, it’s a chance to build the campaign. The protests and lobbies of the council should continue, write letters to the paper, turn up to meetings and councillors surgeries. Keep saying it. Be a thorn in the side of the council! The campaign in Coventry has been amazing, so keep it up. Put pressure on the council – I don’t believe any Labour councillor wants to make cuts.

Dan: So what would you like to see the council do instead?

Cathy: Well, instead of making cuts with a heavy heart, why aren’t their hearts so heavy that they decide they can’t make the cuts? If it’s playing on their minds, if it’s weighing on them, on their consciences, they should listen to that. They should listen to the people of Coventry, and stand up for the people and for the children who use the libraries. Children keep contacting me and telling me they care about their libraries, asking me to stop this from happening in their town – the councils need to listen.

Thanks Cathy for doing the interview and supporting the campaign – join the fightback against library closures and all cuts!

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

Teachers want action from their trade union – views from a Coventry teacher

Teachers want action from their trade union – views from a Coventry teacher

Joint action between NUT and NASUWT at John Gulson Primary in Coventry

Joint action between NUT and NASUWT at John Gulson Primary in Coventry

The following piece was written by a teacher from Coventry and was carried in the latest issue of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper. Since it was published a majority on the National Executive have voted to oppose taking joint industrial action on 14 October.

You can read more about this disappointing decision here.

If you are in a teacher and member of the NUT and want to help build the fight for co-ordinated action in the union, please fill in the form at the bottom of the article.

 


 

By Nicky Downes

At my school in Coventry a number of staff have been out on strike, picketed, attended marches and rallies each time the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have been on strike.

Although the concessions we have won so far have been relatively small, the understanding is still there that we must continue the action until we win improvements in pay and pensions, an end to Performance Related Pay and improvements to workload.

The local NUT executive in Coventry has, before each strike, lobbied the union’s national executive to make sure the action is continued and escalated. This important action has been mentioned at national executive meetings. Other local associations should do the same.

Continuing with the odd day’s strike will not win. There is a mood for escalating to two days of action or more if necessary. This does, however, need to be built for.

The NUT will be surveying its members over the next few weeks to judge the mood. This is after a break when struggling to work 60 hour weeks has not been an issue. During this time the only communications from the union have been adverts for a week’s break at the union owned Stoke Rochford Hall,and for insurance. It would have been a good time to take stock of what we have achieved so far and to build for action in October.

Teachers in my school and across the country will be both angry and surprised if we do not strike with other public sector workers on 14 October. It’s interesting that the survey won’t be finished by then. I hope this means that the union already feels committed to striking on that date and the survey will merely be to confirm the necessity for further, and likely escalating, action in the future.

 

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

Coventry – hear a speaker from the USA on Wednesday, support the strikes on Thursday!

Coventry – hear a speaker from the USA on Wednesday, support the strikes on Thursday!

Ginger speaking at NSSN

Ginger speaking at NSSN conference

There are two big events in Coventry this week.

On Wednesday we are pleased to welcome Ginger Jentzen, an activist from $15now and Socialist Alternative in the USA who will be speaking at a meeting hosted by the National Shop Stewards Network in Coventry. This will be a fantastic opportunity to hear a leading organiser of the successful and growing campaign in the States.

Here are the details;

Wednesday 9th July

6.30-8pm

Central Methodist Hall, Coventry City Centre

The Facebook event page can be accessed by clicking here

Support the strikes on 10th July!

On Thursday 6 public sector unions – Unison, Unite, GMB, NUT, FBU and PCS will take strike against pay and pension cuts, and in defence of public services. The unions have called a public rally after the picket lines; please support the pickets and the rally!

Click on the picture below for full details.

Strike rally

Strike rally