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Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/15776

Posted on 29 November 2012 at 14:42 GMT

Coventry council workers demonstrating on 30th June 2011, photo by Coventry SP

Coventry council workers demonstrating on 30th June 2011, photo by Coventry SP

Coventry Labour council plans destruction of 600 more jobs

By a council worker and Unison shop steward

Workers at Coventry city council have been hit by a further sledgehammer blow with news that an extra 600 jobs are going to be cut over the next three years.

An email from the chief executive Martin Reeves was sent to all staff late Tuesday afternoon (27 November) after many had already gone home for the day.

Staff who do not have access to a computer and those that had finished for the day were left to find out that their jobs could be going through the press or social media sites the next morning.

The email explained that the expected budget gap of 14 million had now doubled to around 28 million.

It goes on to state: "we now estimate that at least another 600 posts will need to be lost over the next three years (that's on top of the 200 we still need to find to meet our estimate of 1,000 posts ...)".

It also gives a pretty clear warning about the changing nature of local government and provision of council services when it states: "This will inevitably mean we will have to redefine what a council is really for and how it works differently in the future with the people it serves".

Although further job cuts were expected, this is yet another slap in the face for council staff, who are having to cover work done by people who have already left the council, at a time when demand for services is increasing.

Council unions bypassed

The Labour administration has shown complete contempt for the trade unions - it gave unions just 45 minutes' notice that this email was going out.

The cuts to local government, including to Coventry, are going to have a devastating effect on those who could be made redundant, and people who rely on our services.

In the face of this savage onslaught, the Labour group headed up by John Mutton and George Duggins, have chosen not to fight the Tories, but are passing the cuts on to the workforce.

Rather than discuss with the unions about how the cuts can be resisted, the council has ignored the unions and is attempting to force these job losses through.

If Labour had any courage they would stand up to the Tories. We can only draw one of two possibilities - firstly that they lack the bottle to stand up to Cameron and his government, or, that they agree with the Tories and that is why they are so willingly and pliantly implementing the cuts and acting as the dutiful hatchet men and women of the Tories.

As one reader of the Coventry Telegraph put it in a letter on 27 November: "They wave the white flag and cry crocodile tears as they lament the demise of public services...

"I fear the only legacy left behind by this Labour council will be redundancies, smashed services and a spine no-one was prepared to use".

Resistance needed

However if they were to launch a campaign of resistance to central government, the Socialist Party would give our 100% support to any campaign and would help mobilise support across the city, in trade unions and in communities, through demonstrations, rallies, protests etc.

The council says it has no choice. Is this right? We do not believe it is the case.

The choice is simple - which side are you on? The Con-Dems, or your own workforce and the people of Coventry.

If they refused to implement the cuts they would get massive support from across the city and further afield.

They could set a budget that meets the needs of the people of Coventry, as part of mass campaign involving unions, service users, all Coventry people, to demand more money from central government.

Linking up with other local authorities, the government could be forced in to granting more resources to the city.

Locally the unions, Unison, GMB, and Unite, with the teaching unions, need to coordinate to discuss 'battle plans', and a firm response to these attacks.

Members' meetings are being organised by the unions and we would urge all members to attend to discuss the way forward.

If the council refuses to back down then the unions need to prepare for a programme of industrial action. This is looking increasingly like what it will come to.

Unless these plans are fought, the future for our city is even grimmer that it is now. We understand that some union members feel let down by the pensions debacle where our national unions marched us up to the top the hill, then accepted a pretty shoddy deal.

Other members may feel that the worst can be avoided. However with 80% of the cuts still to come in, unless we fight now, things are only going to get much worse.

National coordination

Nationally, the unions need a strategy to beat these attacks. Unison for example, is currently letting each council workforce fight on its own.

This is nothing but a dereliction of duty on behalf of the Unison national leadership.

If the council unions coordinated industrial action against the council cuts, on a national level, it would raise the confidence of our members, and massively increase the chance of victory.

But we need to go further, the TUC urgently needs to name the date for a 24-hour general strike, as part of a programme of action to beat austerity.

Why are unions funding a party that is carrying out these attacks on behalf of the Tories?

Union members will again question why our unions are giving money hand over fist to the Labour Party, when it is brutally carrying out the Tory cuts.

It would be bad enough that they don't oppose the attacks, but carrying them out with such complicity makes the situation worse.

Socialists in the council unions will be campaigning for a fighting strategy.

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