Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/678/12351
Birmingham - the fightback begins
Tom Creek, Birmingham Socialist Party
In Birmingham on 30 June, striking teachers, lecturers and civil servants were joined by thousands of local government workers who are fighting brutal attacks on their terms and conditions. The strike rally in the city centre brought together 5,000 workers in defiance of the Con-Dem cuts.
271 schools were affected by the strikes. 31 libraries, 20 neighbourhood offices, three leisure centres, four Connexions offices and four adult day centres were closed completely. There was disruption across other council services and in many universities and colleges, and numerous jobcentres and Department for Work and Pensions offices were also closed or disrupted.
Last year, all 26,000 council workers were threatened with redundancy unless they accepted reduced terms and conditions. The imposed deal was nicknamed the 'Martini contract' because it will force employees to work 'anytime, anyplace, anywhere'.
Pic: S O'Neill
This is combined with the removal of allowances for working overtime and weekends, which will have a devastating effect on low-paid workers in areas such as social care and refuse collection, where anti-social hours are the norm. Many workers face losing a third of their salary, and with it their houses.
Overall the mood was defiant and determined. Caroline Johnson, a senior Birmingham Unison official, described 30 June as: "the first day of continuing action", and workers agreed that it was just the beginning.
There was strong support amongst pickets for the Socialist Party's call for a 24-hour public sector general strike in the autumn, which would draw in other unions like Unite, Unison and the GMB on a national scale.
The question of political representation must also be addressed. The Labour Party was notable by its absence from the picket lines and the demonstration, and Labour has shown no indication that it is prepared to fight the cuts in Birmingham.
It is likely to control the council after the elections next May, so it will be essential to build a socialist political alternative in the city to fight all cuts and show a socialist route out of the capitalist crisis.
In The Socialist 6 July 2011:
30th June strike and after
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party reviews