How working class communities can organise to fight for safety

Justice for Grenfell and safety for all

  • Urgent action needed in Kensington and everywhere
photo Mary Finch

photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

No safety – no rent!

No one should pay to live in a tower block without knowing it is safe. You have a contract with the council; the minimum they provide should be a safe house. Until urgent and thorough fire safety checks are carried out and residents are satisfied that necessary changes have been made, tenants groups across the country should consider organising collectively to withhold rent.

Here are some ideas on how this could be organised:

  • Call a mass meeting of tenants on your estate – a downloadable leaflet is available here. Knock every door. Message all your friends and neighbours. It’s summer so they can be open air – at the bottom of your block. Try to include everyone so give yourself some time but start now!
  • If you don’t have a tenants and residents association, set one up. If you do, sign everyone up to it. You will need contact details – there’s a sign-up sheet available here
  • Sign up everyone in a tower who is willing to participate in a withholding of rent should there be any delay with adequate safety measures and a separate list of everyone who is willing to back them up – here’s that sign-up sheet again
  • Print off window bills to advertise your campaign – you can download it here
  • Organise teams to go around local streets asking people to sign up as supporters should any action be taken against tower tenants defending their right to safety
  • Get in touch with the Socialist Party if you want to discuss how to go about any of this

Rehouse survivors locally – take over empty properties

photo spudgun67/Creative Commons

photo spudgun67/Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

There is a real fear of dispersal. Every tenant from Grenfell Tower – and any who have to be relocated from homes nearby – should be rehoused by the council within the borough.

No one should be forced out of their community – which has already suffered huge social cleansing through sell-offs and rocketing rents – as a result of this fire.

Lifetime secure tenancies should be offered for all – not “assured” or other inferior tenancy. Leaseholders should also be offered proper replacements.

Once the recovery operation is completed and the shell of Grenfell is brought down, the land it occupies must remain in public hands and be used for the benefit of the local community.

The borough of Kensington and Chelsea has 1,399 empty properties, the majority owned by rich individuals and investment companies for speculation. As many as necessary should be requisitioned immediately.

As Jeremy Corbyn said when he supported this demand: “It can’t be acceptable that in London we have luxury buildings and luxury flats left empty as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live. We have to address these issues.”

Action now – remove cladding, sprinklers in every block

Action to make people safe and to support the victims and those made homeless cannot wait for the results of any investigation. Risky cladding should be removed from all blocks now. An emergency programme to fit sprinklers in all tower blocks in the country should start now. Councils should start immediately and demand the money back from government.

The London region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) tweeted: “Nobody has ever died in a fire in the UK in a property with an effective sprinkler system fitted. Grenfell Tower had no such system.”

This is also an issue that needs addressing in other types of public buildings. In October the FBU wrote a joint letter with the National Union of Teachers to education secretary Justine Greening asking the government to reconsider its decision to abolish the expectation that all new school buildings would be fitted with sprinklers.

Full investigation – a workers’ inquiry

There has been much discussion among local residents in Kensington and supporters about what kind of investigation should take place. It is vital in the longer term that all lessons are learnt and that those responsible for this tragedy are held to account. Jail the killers!

Legal experts have put forward different views on whether an inquest or public inquiry holds the best, quickest chance of justice. All factors should be taken into account and residents should have a democratic say over what they trust most to investigate and make speedy judgements. Legal representation for the tenants should be paid for.

The Socialist Party calls for a workers’ inquiry – an independent, trade union and residents’ groups-led inquiry, drawing on experts, which could bring out the implications of spending cuts and make recommendations that do not compromise safety because of austerity.

For example, Unite the Union could provide representatives of housing workers and building workers. If there is no immediate action, Jeremy Corbyn should step in to establish such an inquiry

Kick out the money-grubbing councillors!

  • Use the reserves now, end cuts and privatisation

In the local community there is fury at the local council’s response in Kensington, which has been so bad that a new response team has been set up to coordinate re-housing and relief.

The call has gone up for the council leaders to resign. A council that represented working class and young people in any area would be fighting the corner of the residents now, ensuring immediate rehousing, emergency aid distribution and that people are getting the answers they need. We vote for local councillors to supposedly stand up for our interests – not hide and evade questions.

This callous, cold council for the rich has £300 million in reserves – use it now to resolve this crisis!

Kensington Tory council has pursued cuts with glee. That must stop. And we demand that all Labour councils immediately stop passing on the Tories’ deadly cuts and privatisation, if they want to avoid the complete loss of confidence experienced in Kensington, and crucially avoid more terrible loss of life.

If councillors are not prepared to invest in our homes and services, if they are not prepared to stand up against government cuts, they should step aside for those who will.

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