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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 March 2007

Southampton

Council workers ballot for city-wide strike

IN SOUTHAMPTON, like many areas, the pain of council cuts is spread unevenly. Care workers' wages are being slashed and services to vulnerable sections of the community are cut. Yet highly paid executives maintain their positions and councillors vote to protect their expenses.

Nick Chaffey, Southampton UNISON Steward, personal capacity

Council workers are now balloting to take city-wide strike action in defence of jobs and services and to oppose the threat of privatisation to over 1,000 jobs. They will be joining over 300 care workers who have voted to take a further four days of strike action this month.

Dr John Beer earns 114,167 as head of services to the elderly and asks: "What am I supposed to do?".

Save Our Services in Southampton has been arguing that the only solution to the current crisis is to increase funding from central government. Yet local politicians, both councillors and our two Labour MPs are silent on this.

With the local elections just two months away there has never been a better time to challenge the no-choice parties. Already care workers have been discussing this and support is growing amongst council workers.

The care workers have set a magnificent example of what needs to be done. The local paper has printed dozens of letters in support of their fight and launched a petition and 'Justice For Carers' campaign.

A united mass campaign of the trade unions and the community, through strike action and the ballot box, is the best way to maximise the pressure on the council and force concessions. Previous victories have shown what is possible. But unless we fight the government for the resources we need this battle will continue forever.

As socialists we need to convince workers not only to take action but break politically with the politics and the parties of the market - to fight for a programme and build a party that defends workers and their communities.

Council workers across the country will be asking when our union is going to link New Labour's attacks on pay, pensions and jobs into a national campaign to deliver not only national strike action but an electoral challenge.

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