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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 December 2010

100,000 council workers given redundancy notices

Defend jobs and services

Coordinated trade union action needed

Birmingham council workers strike, April 2008, included Unison, GMB, NUT and PCS workers, photo S O'Neill

Birmingham council workers strike, April 2008, included Unison, GMB, NUT and PCS workers, photo S O'Neill   (Click to enlarge)

During the first week of December local councils will be told in exact cash terms what the cuts will mean for them over the next four years. However, the reality is that for months senior managers and councillors have been preparing behind the scenes to unleash a wholesale attack on council jobs and services, the like of which has never been seen before.

A local government worker

The scale of it was bought home to me in recent negotiations with an education director. He said that youth service plans would mean the end of the service as it has existed since the 1960s.

He also warned that the cuts could effectively mean the end of the Local Education Authority, and that he may even have to alter his report proposing 40% cuts for even bigger ones once we see the new education White Paper.

What is also clear is that a growing number of councils, perhaps fearing the reaction to the outright closure of too many services, are seeking to frighten council workers into taking cuts in pay and conditions instead.

Nationally, 100,000 council workers have now been issued with 90-day notices which effectively put a gun to their heads to accept cuts in pay and conditions or face the sack.

Disgracefully, some Labour councils, such as Rhondda Cynon Taff, are handing out mass sacking notices to their entire workforce.

The latest council to use this bullying method is Tory-led Southampton which, on top of 250 job cuts, is proposing a 5.4% pay cut by reducing employees' working week by two hours.

The council is also proposing a two-year pay freeze, stopping pay increments, and no sick pay for the first three days off sick. The workers have been told to take this or there will be another 400 jobs to go. But the reality is that councils will take the pay cuts today and come back for the job cuts tomorrow.

Coordinated action

In response, you might expect local government unions to immediately call together all the affected union branches to plan a campaign, including launching a coordinated ballot for strike action. Imagine a strike of 100,000 council workers all out together and what that would do for the confidence of workers everywhere to fight.

Unfortunately, there is no such lead being given and branches are being left isolated to fight alone. In fact some of the tops of the union are wrongly seeking to blame the members by saying that 'polls show that members are in favour of cuts'.

Local union branches need to offer a fighting alternative to the members, as in Kirklees, Telford, Shropshire and Nottingham councils. We need to be demanding, as a start, that the 2 billion sat in council reserves is spent to protect jobs and services as part of a massive campaign to force the government to retreat.

Union leaders must begin to coordinate action and to plan for a one-day public sector general strike.

Where the union leaders fail to bring branches together to coordinate action then this must be done from below by the local branches and through the local and national anti-cuts movement.

The National Shop Stewards Network conference in January will provide a key opportunity for such coordination. Every public sector worker, trade unionist, service user and student should put it in their diary now.

National Shop Stewards Network

National anti-cuts conference

Saturday 22 January 2011

11.30am - 3.30pm

South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1 1RG (by Euston Station)

The NSSN is the union rank and file body founded by the RMT transport union in 2007. It has organised annual national conferences since then involving hundreds of trade unionists. The NSSN is active locally, regionally and nationally, pulling together workers in struggle. We say not one job or one service should be cut. Never has there been a greater need for coordinated action.

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In The Socialist 1 December 2010:

Youth Fight for Education

Young people lead fight against cuts

We can win: student struggle must escalate

Socialist Party editorial

Unity - but not unity of the graveyard

How can an anti-cuts movement be built? Coalition of Resistance conference report

Anti-cuts campaign

Defend jobs and services

Riot police called to Lewisham town hall lobby

Irish working class in huge show of defiance

Fight against cuts continues to grow

Coventry council - stop job cuts

NHS walk-in centre saved, but campaign continues

News in brief


Nuneaton protest against racist EDL

The Socialist Interview

Len McCluskey speaks to The Socialist: Building workers' confidence

Socialist Party workplace news

PCS: Vote 'yes' for action against cuts

London Underground strike most solid so far

Wales TUC leadership tries to stifle action to stop the cuts

A united battle for pensions

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

North Korean artillery attack raises tensions

Portugal: 'Biggest strike action ever'

Climate change

Climate change: Socialist planning needed to avert a global catastrophe

Readers' comments

Our health - A market for big business

Bankers: The new untouchables?


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