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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 February 2019

Victory to Birmingham bin workers

Deselect the Blairites!

Birmingham bin strikers, photo Birmingham Socialist Party

Birmingham bin strikers, photo Birmingham Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Kristian Sucilla O'Sullivan, Birmingham Central Socialist Party

Birmingham City Council, also known as the 'Blairite City Council' by many local trade union activists, has been caught red-handed using blacklisting.

The council has targeted refuse and collection workers from Unite the Union who took industrial action last year to save safety-critical 'grade three' roles from being cut.

Unite has discovered that the council made secret 'sweetheart payments' - as described by Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett - as a 'reward' to refuse workers who did not participate in last year's strike. The recipients were a minority section of staff, who received payments of 4,000 plus each!

This is a clear act of discrimination, sanctioning and, most disgustingly, a tactic of divide and rule.

It is an action clearly designed to weaken the collective force of the union taken by - let's not forget - a Labour council.

This is a Labour council that attempted to obtain a court injunction using Tory anti-union legislation. A Labour council which attempted to use a strikebreaking 'alternative workforce' against union members!

Despite all this, Unite members still offered an olive branch to this anti-worker council. The union stated that, if the council simply made payments of parity so that all bin workers were paid equally, all parties involved could move on and attempt to rebuild the decimated trust between this Labour council and the labour movement.

But Birmingham council was not in any mood to admit to its wrongdoings and make amends. Instead, it tried to shift the blame onto the bin workers, punishing staff by refusing holiday leave.

The council also tried to poison public opinion - attempting to turn the bin workers' own communities against them by utilising contacts in the local media to run hostile, anti-union headlines.

With the council refusing to cooperate with Unite's final peace deal of parity payments, bin workers have been forced to escalate their 'work to rule' action to a full-blown strike starting on 19 February.

Wider struggle

The ordinary working-class and young people of Birmingham are behind the bin workers. We understand this is part of a wider fight to save our public services, as the already striking Birmingham home care workers know all too well.

This is a fight not just for workplace justice but against Tory austerity. It is a fight against all those councillors that do the Tories' dirty work - implementing cuts at local level - no matter the colour of their rosettes.

If these Labour councillors are not prepared to stand up for the working class then they should stand down.

If they won't go willingly, they should face deselection as Labour candidates. They should be replaced with real working-class fighters, drawn from across the trade union and socialist movement - fighters prepared to take a stand and support a no-cuts budget, ending all attacks on workers' rights.

Ultimately, if the same pro-cuts councillors are not removed and instead seek re-election, they should face an anti-cuts challenge at the ballot box.

Workers across Birmingham need councillors who are working-class fighters, prepared to take the battle to one of the weakest Tory governments of all time.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 13 February 2019:


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