Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/456/5568
Southampton: 300 rally to oppose privatisation - prepare for strike action
WORKERS FROM UNISON, AMICUS, TGWU and GMB protested outside Southampton Civic Centre to show their anger as councillors arrived to vote on their plans to privatise over 800 council jobs.
Nick Chaffey, UNISON Steward, Voluntary Sector branch, committee member Southampton District UNISON, personal capacity
The 300 workers were there from across the council, not just those areas affected. This shows the support that exists for collective action in the face of these threats.
The council is split 15, 15, 15 between the parties. At the meeting the Liberals and Tories voted to go ahead and expanded the proposals to include extra departments. Labour councillors, some who had stood on the protest, voted to oppose the plans, despite their role in carrying through the privatisation of the Guildhall, Ski Slope and Civic Cafe, and launching proposals to establish a Leisure Trust, when they were last the majority party.
Following this success, a mass meeting on 19 October will discuss what next. UNISON needs to spell out clearly to members what privatisation will mean in losing jobs and cutting terms and conditions. In the face of further budget cuts in February the branch must use its collective strength to stand in defiance of these plans, clear in the knowledge that united strike action is the most effective way forward.
This needs to be linked to a political campaign in solidarity with service users who will be affected by privatisation and cuts and will cast their votes in next May's local elections.
The call needs to be made not only to oppose privatisation and cuts but also to call for increased funding from central government to meet the needs of the city.
Branch Secretary, Mike Tucker, has raised the call to back Labour in the local elections as they oppose these privatisation plans. Whilst their opposition is to be welcomed, it is hardly something that we can rely on.
This proposal is a mistake, New Labour's past record has been to privatise jobs and carry through cuts. The proposal has alarmed many members who know New Labour's track record.
Given the crisis facing Labour they are likely to lose seats in May and the current partnership between the Liberals and Tories means they would be outvoted anyway.
Whilst UNISON is hamstrung by its undemocratic restrictions on funding political parties, the branch could take steps similar to the UNISON Thameside strikers in Manchester who stood candidates in local elections in the 1990s. This would be a far more effective route to take in building solidarity for strike action.
Socialist Party members, alongside other activists in the branch, launched a Campaign for a Fighting Democratic UNISON at a meeting recently to lobby for these ideas in the coming weeks. The next few months will be critical in facing up to the massive attacks on jobs and services.
In The Socialist 28 September 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis