Coventry wins City of Culture 2021 – celebrate working class culture and fight for decent funding  

Coventry wins City of Culture 2021 – celebrate working class culture and fight for decent funding  

Thursday evening brought news that Coventry has been named the City of Culture 2021.

Coventry Socialist Party welcomes the city’s victory and shares with many the hope that this will bring a much needed boost to the city following year after year of austerity cuts.

We believe it is a great chance to celebrate Coventry’s rich history of working class culture and struggle. From the English Civil War to the Poll Tax, Coventry has been a stronghold of resistance. The phrase “sent to Coventry” comes from the treatment Royalist army prisoner got when imprisoned in Coventry, a stronghold of the Parliamentarian forces – who hoisted their banner on what is now Banner Lane and marched down Cromwell Lane to smash the Royalists!
During both World Wars, women workers in Coventry organised in trade unions to fight for better pay and conditions. Fighting workers also ensured decent jobs in Coventry’s factories, making this the richest working class city in the country.
In the 1980s thousands of Coventry people refused to pay the Poll Tax, which was part of the movement that brought down Thatcher. They also elected Dave Nellist, a “Militant” Labour MP, who said in response to the announcement “Hopefully, at least 50% of events can be designed, developed and grown within the city itself.”

Coventry will be receiving increased funding after this announcement – the council should work out a plan for how this can be used to reopen libraries and other facilities that have closed, closures that limit access to culture and opportunities for Coventry people.

Angered at JD Sports? Time to get unionised – time to fight for socialism!

Angered at JD Sports? Time to get unionised – time to fight for socialism!

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JD Sports

A Channel 4 investigative report shown tonight has highlighted the horrendous working conditions faced by workers at JD Sports warehouses. The undercover reporter showed how workers are treated in an environment of Sports Direct proportions.

It was shown how workers face daily humiliation and extreme pressure through performance targets and aggressive management practices – being given warnings for having the wrong type of logos on their clothing, chewing gum or even wearing an unacceptable style of wrist watch!

The footage showed massive queues of workers waiting to leave the workplace in a huge queue before being searched by an airport security type system to ensure goods had not been stolen. Unsurprisingly workers were not paid for this meaning in effect they were being paid less than the minimum wage.

This is the nature of modern day capitalism. It is also a warning to all workers – this is how all of us would be treated if the capitalist class and their hirelings in government thought they could get away with it.

Trade unions urgently need to not only highlight these bad practices, they need to organise and prepare for a militant battle to win decent terms and conditions and workers rights in general. But we can’t leave it there. In an economy where profit is the driving force we are always going to be under attack. That is why we need a socialist transformation of society – let’s banish these horrors to the dustbin of history once and for all.

Join the struggle – fill in the form below and we will be in touch

Coventry City Council announces plans for devastating cuts

Coventry City Council announces plans for devastating cuts

Coventry City Council plans more cuts

Coventry City Council has announced plans for further crushing cuts that will affect people all across our city.

Working class people across the board will be hit – there are plans to increase Council Tax whilst weekly bin collections are stopped meaning the public paying more but getting less, reductions in Council Tax Support that will damage low paid workers, the threat of another 200 jobs being slashed (on top of the 2,100 that have been lost since 2010), and the possibility of the terms and conditions of the remaining staff being attacked and much more.

The Council are already ‘consulting’ on plans to close and cut public libraries, nursery provision and youth clubs, looking to replace staff in libraries with volunteers who will work for free. All this at the time Coventry is bidding for City of Culture!

In addition to the council cuts, of £19 million in the next financial year rising to £36 million a year by 2020, Coventry is also due to lose by 2020 a further £30 million across all schools in the city. That’s a 14% funding cut and, if those cuts are not challenged, they could be hundreds less teachers in the city in four years’ time.

Tory austerity is hitting cities like Coventry hard. The Coventry Telegraph estimates that the city has lost around £95 million in funding since 2010.

Is there an alternative to hundreds of job losses, “redesign” of bin collections, rising charges for burials and cremation, for car parks and in the council tax – whilst the vulnerable and the working poor face cuts in Council Tax Support?

Yes. And it has to start with Labour standing up to the Tories, not just, however unwillingly, doing their work.

Unfortunately rather than put up any resistance the Council have proceeded to implement all cuts that have been asked for by central government.

The Labour Council should be honest with the people of Coventry: cuts are already hurting – and the further cuts coming in educational services such as speech therapy and the Performing Arts service make hollow the aspiration to be UK City of Culture 2021.

Total council reserves, which rose from £41 million to £84 million over the last five years, have risen again, to £95 million! Surely, within that sum, there is scope for not proceeding with the £19 million cuts proposed for 2017/18 and instead temporarily funding those services from reserves whilst leading a serious campaign against the Tories for the restoration of essential local funding.

Cllr John Mutton and others have said that this is not a solution and you can only use reserves once. However what the Socialist Party have consistently argued is that the reserves should be used as a short term measure to plug the gap and keep key services going whilst at the same time building a massive campaign to demand more funds from central government.

We have explained before how this approach worked in cities like Liverpool where the equivalent of £60 million was won for the city from the claws of Margaret Thatcher. Would this be easy? No, absolutely not. The choice though is to fight, or to implement cuts that are going to hit the people of Coventry. Labour have a duty to stand up for the people of Coventry, not carry out this savage austerity.

A campaign should include:

  • public meetings in every ward explaining the consequences of Tory cuts;
  • a march and rally through the city, with national labour and trade union speakers, to unite the thousands who could be involved if a serious lead was given;
  • a conference held in Coventry of Labour local authority representatives and trade unions from across the country, to broaden support and work out a common agenda of resistance;
  • a national demonstration organised by Labour and the TUC early in the New Year to demand an end to cuts and restoration of the billions of pounds stolen from local towns and cities.
  • The council trade unions should gear up to oppose these cuts and defend jobs and services, if necessary by taking industrial action

The Socialist Party will be campaigning against these attacks, and for a fighting programme to defend our jobs and vital services. If you agree and want to get involved, fill in the form below

We urge readers to join the campaign event organised by unions outside the Central Library on Saturday 3rd December at 12pm

Lively protest against youth club closures

Lively protest against youth club closures

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‘Keep Cov’s youth clubs!’ On the march through the city centre

Last Saturday saw a lively demonstration take place through Coventry city centre organised by young people opposed to the Council’s plans to close youth clubs in the city.

Despite miserable weather the march won both the attention and support of shoppers as it made it’s way twice through the city of Coventry. The well made and bright placards explained the situation with slogans such as ‘Don’t give up on young people’, ‘More youth clubs, not less!’and ‘We make new friends at youth club’.

If the Council get away with closing these youth clubs it would be yet another hammer blow for ordinary people in the city with libraries and nursery provision also threatened with being cut under the banner of the ‘Connecting Communities’ cuts programme (it would be more accurate to call it ‘Dis-Connecting Communities’). And all of this takes place as the Council makes a bid for Coventry to become the City of Culture!

A petition has been started and we would encourage all readers of this site to sign it by clicking here

Photos of the protest can be viewed here

All Coventry people need to get behind the young people and their supporters campaigning to save their services. The youth are leading the way in fighting back and we need everyone to do the same.

The Socialist Party in Coventry are proud to support this campaign like we have done others in the city against the cuts.

Please see the article below which is the text of a leaflet we have produced against Connecting Communities and how we think the Labour Council should be fighting the government cuts, not implementing them.


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

Councillors should fight austerity – not implement it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No more academies. No more cuts’ A Coventry teacher speaks out before NUT conference

‘No more academies. No more cuts’

A Coventry teacher speaks out before NUT conference

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Nicky Downes

The annual conference of the National Union of Teachers begins today in Brighton. Socialist Party member and NUT activist Nicky Downes is a delegate from Coventry. Speaking to us whilst travelling to this key meeting of teacher trade unionists she told us

The education system in this country is well and truly broken. We need to fight back just like the junior doctors are doing to save the NHS. If this doesn’t happen we will continue to have a system that values profit above learning. A system that believes anyone can teach and the best education comes from a book or computer programme flogged by Pearson. No more academies. No more cuts. A qualified teacher in every class.

Jane Nellist, also from Coventry, and a member of the national executive of the NUT has written an article calling on the unions to act against the academies onslaught. It can be read here

If you are a teacher and want to link up with Socialist Party members in the NUT, please fill in the form below!

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.

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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.

Dave Nellist on the artist taxi driver

Dave Nellist, National chair of the the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and TUSC candidate for Coventry North West in the general election on May 7th, recently took time out for a 3-part interview with the highly acclaimed ‘Artist Taxi Driver’ .

Agree with Dave?

get in touch on 0753 0429 441

or come along to the Coventry TUSC pre-election rally ….

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Did you see the #TUSC election broadcast?

Did you see the #TUSC election broadcast?

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) election broadcast with Dave Nellist was on TV tonight (Friday) – did you see it? You can watch it online here!

If you want to get involved in Coventry, fill in the form below – and come to our election launch rally with Irish MP Ruth Coppinger on April 30th!

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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

 

Council unions in Coventry stage protest against cuts and in support of pay claim

Council unions in Coventry stage protest against cuts and in support of pay claim

Members of Unison, GMB and Unite outside the Council House today

Members of Unison, GMB and Unite outside the Council House today

By a council worker

Members of Unison, GMB and Unite working for Coventry City Council today held a lunchtime protest against continuing cuts and to build support for the 2014/15 pay claim.

The protest was part of a national day of action organised by the three unions with many similar actions taking place around the country.

Over recent years council workers, 75 per cent of whom are women, have seen huge real term drops in our pay, as the cost of living has continued to rise. We have had our pensions attacked, and face the constant threat of redundancy. The cuts that are taking place not only have an impact on those who work for the council, but crucially those who rely on key public services.

The protest today took place just weeks before Coventry City Council, which is Labour run, will vote to implement even more of these cuts from central government. Pressure needs to be put on these councillors to resist the Tories, not do their dirty work.

As a start, nationally (and locally) the three unions need to start demanding from Labour run Local Authorities that they should refuse to pull the trigger on local services on behalf of the Tories.

Activists within the unions need to build pressure from below to ensure that the union leaderships  forcefully pursue the pay claim this year – which includes preparing the membership for the need for industrial action if the Local Government employers do not come back with a satisfactory offer. Our members are struggling to survive, with some having to visit Foodbanks to get by. That is not acceptable and needs to be properly challenged!

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