Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11200
Day of anger against cuts in Southampton
Tempers flared to a rendition of 'Build a Bonfire' as council workers stormed into the public gallery at Southampton City Council's budget meeting. The pale faces of the Tory councillors were reminiscent of the Poll Tax rate-setting meetings back in the 1990s.
On that occasion the meeting was adjourned so the rate could be set in a public meeting in the Guildhall. On this occasion the Labour mayor ordered that the gallery be cleared, with the police called to shift those who refused to move. Then the council swung their axe.
For those losing their jobs, pay and services this was a day of anger. What an irony it is that the so-called party of 'law and order' rips up the 'contracts' of council employees while ensuring nationally that the state controlled banks dutifully pay up the obscene bonuses of the parasitic bankers' 'contracts'.
Never has it been such a flagrant case of one rule for the rich and another rule for the poor.
This budget means pay cuts of up to 5.5% imposed on council workers without negotiation, along with redundancies and cuts to essential services. The mood was summed up by one council worker: "This is worse than Thatcher in the 1980s.
"Services have been cut to the bone. We're already doing more work with less staff, how will that improve services? And then they want to pay us less!".
Service users also attended the protest. Claire from a service run by MIND but funded by the council explained what these cuts mean: "We run a café for adults with special needs.
"If these cuts are made they will have nowhere to go. They will be sat at home alone.
"Already some have talked about suicide. Staff and users are being bullied into not speaking out but we have to fight to make sure our services are protected".
Unison and Unite members will now be seeking to ballot for industrial action to fight the council. Two mass meetings have voted unanimously to reject the cuts and call for strike action.
Union leaders have encouraged the view of backing Labour in the May elections but many workers were left wondering what Labour's plans are, as Labour failed to present a budget of their own. Perhaps they have something to hide.
Socialist Party members distributed leaflets calling for a one-day public sector general strike and raising the call for anti-cuts candidates to stand in the May local elections.
At a recent meeting, when challenged by Socialist Party members on their alternative, a Labour councillor said: "There is sod all we can do". Clearly we have no choice but to put forward candidates who will offer a real fight against all cuts in jobs, pay, services and benefits.