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Posted on 13 December 2010 at 15:52 GMT

Anti-cuts campaigning in East London

A cold wind of savage cuts is sweeping across east London - as it is across the country. In Newham, a New Labour 'one-party state', the council is threatening to axe 1,600 jobs.

This could be lowered to 1,200, it suggests cynically, but only if workers accept harsh attacks on terms and conditions.

Manny Thain

Unite union reps have begun to organise the fightback. Clearly, there is now an urgent need to link up with other unions to organise determined and coordinated action.

Last Monday (6 December), East London Socialist Party held a protest outside Newham town hall in protest at the deep cuts - an opening shot across the bows of this rotten borough council.

Newham's mayor, Sir Robin Wales, a die-hard Blairite fundamentalist, is in belligerent mood. He wants to balance the books, he says, and the blame should lie with "the Tories and the yellow Tories". But it is not so easy to pass the buck.

In reality, the faded, washed out 'red' Tories in New Labour are in the same boat - if they are not prepared to fight back.

To add insult to injury, Wales recently gave himself a 4% pay rise. On 78,844, he is the highest paid London borough mayor - followed closely by Steve Bullock in Lewisham on 78,835, and Jules Pipe in Hackney on 75,846. All three are New Labour and their boroughs are among the poorest in London.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, social workers in the neighbouring borough of Redbridge lobbied their council. Adult social services workers are facing a 10% pay cut with the removal of recruitment and retention allowances.

Fifty or so workers, supported by Unison, GMB, NUT and Socialist Party members protested outside Tuesday's cabinet meeting. They are clearly fed up with the council, a number of them threatening to leave. Their frustration is understandable.

These frontline staff are essential for organising home visits to housebound and vulnerable people, and they do emergency call-outs. The overall mood, however, was defiant. Further action is promised.

These two examples are typical, emphasising the central role of public-sector unions in the fight back against the cuts.

And they underline the importance of the National Shop Stewards Network anti-cuts conference on 22 January.

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