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

NHS workers on strike

NHS workers on strike

Walsgrave Hospital Picket

Walsgrave Hospital Picket

NHS workers in six unions: Unison, Unite, GMB, Royal College of Midwives, Ucatt and BAOT went on strike for four hours this morning over pay, the first NHS national strike over pay for 30 years.  The government has reduced real terms pay by 20% for many public sector workers over the last four years. In actual fact many public sector workers have been effectively on a pay freeze for between six and eight years.

Socialist Party members were out supporting the pickets lines in Coventry this morning. Below are some photos from the pickets  at Walsgrave Hospital and the Walk-In Centre just outside of the City Centre.

Unite picket at the Coventry NHS walk-in centre this morning

Unite picket at the Coventry NHS walk-in centre this morning

Below is an article by an NHS worker in this weeks issue of the Socialist Newspaper…

Stop the cuts, scrap rip-off PFI privatisation schemes

Strike to save our NHS!

By an NHS worker

The National Health Service (NHS) is mired in a deep financial crisis and in a desperate attempt to highlight this a body of health professionals have written an open letter to the government.

A conservative estimate says the NHS shortfall amounts to a black hole of £30 billion but others put this figure closer to £50 billion.

We see desperate patients in pain and distress waiting for appointments for scans and treatment and when frontline staff complain to management we are fobbed off or told ‘you must do more work’.

We have seen our own pay frozen in the face of the increasing demands being put on us. Many more of us face being demoted and downbanded as fat cat private companies continue to leach off our NHS.

Privatisation

The Tory funding freeze, which they deceitfully call ‘ringfencing the NHS budget’, is one factor behind rising NHS debt.

However the introduction of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) into the NHS and their rapid expansion by New Labour in the late 1990s created a financial time bomb which is now about to detonate.

When PFI was being rolled out the Labour party allowed consortia of building companies and financial houses to flood into the NHS to build and refurbish hospitals at extortionate rents, spanning 30 years. Several NHS trusts have gone bankrupt as result of PFI debt.

We are also seeing a rise in the privatisation of core health care services, and NHS trusts are paying huge sums to buy in services from private companies who offer less. On top of this there is the added financial burden of administering these contracts. The state of hospital meals post-privatisation is a warning. They are so dire that this issue has hit the headlines.

The privatisation of public services leads to rising costs, worse services and increased charges for patients. Hospital bosses are now talking of charging patients £75 a night for the ‘hotel costs’ of staying in a hospital. In the USA 62% of all bankruptcies are as a result of medical bills.

The NHS staff appeal to the Tories will fall on deaf ears. The Tories will carry on with their policy of freezing the NHS budget if they get re-elected.

The Labour party pledges £2 billion in ‘new money’ to the NHS but this is woefully inadequate considering the funding black hole. Whichever mainstream party gets elected the tranche of cuts and the damage wrought by the privatisation of services will continue.

Nurses and other NHS workers are demoralised and desperate. For the first time in over 30 years unionised health workers are coming out on strike over our pay on 13 October. Industrial action is the most effective measure we can take that will force this government to take the future of the NHS seriously.

Half a day’s action can be a starting point to escalating the industrial action in co-ordination with the other trade unionists in the public sector who provide essential services for our patients.

Our patients need us to step up and fight to prevent the total destruction of the NHS. If we can’t fight for ourselves let’s do it for them!

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

Fire-fighters rally in Birmingham

Fire-fighters rally in Birmingham

Dave Nellist addresses the FBU rally

Dave Nellist addresses the FBU rally

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

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

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

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

 

Unison member in Coventry responds to Kevin Maguire’s call for unions to break link with Labour

Unison member in Coventry responds to Kevin Maguire’s call for unions to break link with Labour

Cartoon used in the Mirror newspaper

Cartoon used in the Mirror newspaper

Following the article in today’s Mirror newspaper by Kevin Maguire, we have received this comment from a Unison activist in Coventry. We welcome responses which can be made on this site using the comments function or by emailing us – see details at the bottom

The trade union – Labour link, time to end it

Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire has made a very interesting contribution to the debate about the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions. His article which is available online here makes some very telling points about the reforms being carried out by Ed Miliband and what the unions and their members actually get out of the link with Labour – which is not very much at all.

Maguire’s columns regularly make some very good comments on the situation facing working class people in the face of Tory austerity – he also prominently supported the Youth Fight for Jobs re-creation of the Jarrow March in 2011.

He outlines the situation facing the unions today with regard to the relations with the Labour Party

‘Rather than enduring a thousand indignities, organised labour should take its money and people and abandon institutional links with the party it fathered, nurtured, saved and continues to sustain.’

However Ed Miliband dresses up these far reaching reforms, which were triggered by his blind panic over the selection of a parliamentary ­candidate in Falkirk, the truth is he wants union cash but not the unions.’

Time to end the link

Many Unison members, as well as many members of other affiliated trade unions have been calling for an end to the Labour Link for some time. As we have pointed out on many occasions – it is an abusive relationship where we hand over millions of pounds in affiliation fees only for Labour to attack us. Whilst in government Labour did little or nothing for the trade unions, including failing to scrap Tory anti-union laws.

Any thought that Labour would move to the Left in opposition was quickly dispelled. In the dispute in the Falkirk constituency Labour called in the police to investigate Unite for fighting for trade union policies within the party, opening the way for Ineos to attack the Unite convenor which had a negative effect on the outcome of the struggle at Grangemouth.

‘Sticking a red rosette on austerity’

Labour are as committed to austerity as the Tories. Much fuss has been made about the announcement that Labour will push up the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 50 per cent – however as the pro capitalist journal The Economist points out ‘The 50 per cent rate is a political sop, thrown to Labour’s electoral base by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, to make up for the austerity measures that he has also, rather more vaguely, promised, many of which will hit poorer Britons.’

Maguire makes the excellent point later in his column with regard to the cuts in the Environmental Agency following the recent floods.  He states

‘At a private meeting, GMB union reps urged Labour frontbencher Maria Eagle to promise she’d halt Environment Agency job cuts blamed for flooding.

She wouldn’t. Labour attacks on the ConDems are a wet blanket when the party just sticks a red rosette on austerity.’

Council cuts

Maguire talks about the leaderships of Unison, GMB and Unite not being happy with the relationship. This is very timely given that these three unions represents millions of workers, many of whom work for local authorities. For example here in Coventry which is Labour controlled we face the prospect in the coming weeks of Labour Councils setting budgets which will see union members lose their jobs and vital services in working class areas slashed. Damn right the unions aren’t getting value for money!

However particularly in Unison the pro Labour leadership have attempted to stop any debate or discussion about the Labour Link, including witch-hunting Socialist Party members who amongst other things have called for a break with Labour. Too many times has the Unison leadership put the interests of the Labour Party before its own membership.

Activists in the affiliated unions will have to continue to push hard and build further organised support within the workplaces to break the link.

New party of the working class needed – TUSC prepares for May challenge

The Socialist Party has consistently called for a break with the link with Labour. We welcome Kevin Maguire’s article as a contribution to the debate in the trade union movement and the working class more generally about the future of working class representation.

However in itself the breaking of the union – Labour link will not be enough. We believe what is urgently needed is the formation of a party for working class people and trade unionists, an independent political voice that will oppose all austerity, that will put the needs of the 99 per cent above that of the 1 per cent. A party that will restate and articulate the need for socialist policies to fight capitalism.

With that aim, we are a key part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, TUSC, which has the support of the RMT union and many other leading trade unionists from PCS, POA, FBU, Unison, Unite, CWU, GMB and many other unions. Already we know there will be at least 400 TUSC candidates across the country, including 18 here in Coventry where we will be standing in all 18 seats. TUSC and the Socialist Party will be the only anti austerity option for voters in May. We encourage anyone who is sick of the 3 establishment parties to contact us and to help us with the tasks ahead.

Questions, comments, want to get involved? Please email coventrysocialists@googlemail.com or fill in the form below

Coventry TUC hosts anti-cuts meeting

Coventry TUC hosts anti-cuts meeting

Coventry against the Cuts

Coventry against the Cuts

Last night saw Coventry TUC host a public meeting on the issue of the cuts and austerity. Around 45 people turned out to hear a wide variety of speakers from many different unions and campaigns.

Dan Crowter of Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax

Dan Crowter of Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax

The main speaker was Kindy Sandhu, author of ‘Layers of Inequality’ which examines the effects of the cuts on minorities. Many good platform speakers followed from Unison, CYWU / Unite and the FBU. Also speaking from the front were members of NAPO and an activist from the Coventry against the Bedroom Tax campaign.

Judy Griffiths of the CWU

Judy Griffiths of the CWU

There was a wealth of figures used which showed graphically how  working class people are being hit by the cuts. The key question now is what to do about it? Many speakers, including Socialist Party members active in the trade unions, pointed out that we need co-ordinated industrial action. It is 2 years since the huge N30 2011 pension strike, which saw up to 2 million workers take industrial action. This serious momentum was squandered by many of the TU leaders and now the task is to rebuild confidence in the workplace and amongst people more widely that these cuts can be challenged and beaten.

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

However as Dave Nellist pointed out, there has to be a political strategy linked to an industrial one. Earlier this year every single councillor in Coventry, including every Labour councillor, voted to implement the cuts and pass on Tory brutality to the people of the city. In this context it is necessary to build an alternative to the main establishment parties which can begin to popularise the ideas of socialism, in opposition to capitalism which forces us time and time again to pay for a crisis not of our making.

Coventry Youth Workers protest against Council Cuts

Coventry Socialist Party members were out today supporting youth workers in UNITE the union, protesting outside the Council House against the latest cuts to Coventry Youth Service by Coventry’s Labour controlled Council. Cuts that will see job losses and even more young people go without vital support and help.
YOUTH WORK
This dispute raises once again the current political strategy pursued by UNITE and the other Council Unions at a national level – UNISON and GMB. There needs to be debate in all three unions and various others, about why they continue to fund a Labour Party that is so willing to carry out the bidding of the Tories on the people of Coventry.

Report and pictures from university strike action at Coventry and Warwick

Report and pictures from university strike action at Coventry and Warwick 

Picket at University of Warwick

Picket at University of Warwick

Today industrial took place at Higher Education institutions across the country involving members of UCU, Unison and Unite. There were pickets at both Coventry University and the University of Warwick. Members of the Socialist Party visited the picket lines to show support, whilst Socialist Student groups at both universities, together with Socialist Party youth members worked hard to build links between students and university workers on the day and beforehand.

Report from University of Warwick

By M Best

Socialist Students at Warwick build support

Socialist Students at Warwick build support

The mood was clear at the picket at Warwick today, there is a drastic need to take action to defend peoples jobs. The issue of a pay cut was just as important for lecturers and staff becoming increasingly unsure of whether they will get enough work during the quiet periods such as the summer. The issue of people on zero hour contracts and increased casualisation were also mentioned. The idea of a general strike, getting everyone out together, to face the attacks which are the same in every industry struck a chord with the workers.

One picketer told me
“It’s sad that the university can’t support its staff the way the staff supports it. People say if you can’t pay for the best then you won’t get the best, so we can’t be the best. If an employer said to you would you take a job that in 4 years we’ll pay you 14% less you wouldn’t take it. A lot of people can’t afford these cuts. There are people having to choose between heating and eating. And we’re having staff at a top university have to make that decision. Its those lowest paid workers at the bottom who can’t afford the pay cuts.”

Report from Coventry University

Picket near the Alan Berry Building at Coventry University

Picket near the Alan Berry Building at Coventry University

There were a number of pickets across the campus of Coventry University, as union members gave out leaflets to students explaining why there were going on strike. Members of Unison from the Coventry District (council) branch attended to show support. Socialist Students members joined the picket to bring solidarity from students.

Members of Socialist Students / SP youth members

Members of Socialist Students / SP youth members

The question of unions from different sectors co-ordinating their many disputes came up time and time again. The need for co-ordination action is not just a good idea, it is a burning necessity which would raise the collective confidence of all workers in the fight against capitalist austerity measures.

One of the leaflets that was distributed

One of the leaflets that was distributed

Socialist Party members in the education unions, together with Socialist Students across the campuses, will continue to argue for worker – student solidarity. This is not just a fight for terms and conditions, but a battle to defend education.

If you want to help us, or to join / get more info about the fight for socialism, fill in the form below and we will contact you

 

 

University Workers to Strike Back

University Workers to Strike Back

UCU banner

UCU banner

By A Socialist Party Member in UCU in the Coventry area

31 October will be a day of coordinated strike action by UCU, Unison and Unite members working in Universities. This is the first UK-wide joint action between these Higher Education unions, demonstrating the anger that their members feel about the employers’ insulting 1% pay increase.

Even pro-capitalist commentator Will Hutton, writing in the Observer notes that “The real wages of academics have fallen by 13% since 2008, one of the largest sustained wage cuts any profession has suffered since the Second World War.” This is despite the scandalously high fees charged to students, which have subsidised lavish pay at the upper echelons of University management while ordinary teaching, research, and support staff struggle.

We want a publicly funded system of Higher Education, free at the point of use and paying a fair wage to its workers. In addition to real-terms pay cuts, casualisation of all jobs is rife in the sector, including use of fixed-term, hourly-paid and even the now-infamous ‘zero hours’ contracts. This job insecurity together with management bullying and excessive workloads will also motivate UCU members to undertake a ‘work to contract’ following the strike day.

Many student organisations, including official students’ unions, have offered support. It will be vital to build on these links and make clear to students that this industrial action strengthens their fight for free education, particularly if exam marking ends up being affected. Already propaganda about the USS pension scheme has tried to pit students against staff – in fact this scheme is healthy in any reasonable measure, and a bizarre accounting practice is being used to claim students will end up ‘bailing out’ their lecturers’ pensions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this and similar falsehoods will be peddled by the ConDem Government and their media chums if the dispute continues.

This and other elements of a serious fighting strategy could see a victory in the form of a significantly improved pay offer. But ultimately the dispute has arisen from the politics of austerity and we need to make links with other unions – our members already look to the disputes that other unions are involved in -and the call for a one-day general strike against austerity is gaining ground. Socialists in Higher Education unions will fight to make it a reality.