The Socialist 26 January 2011 |
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Marching against council cuts
On Monday 17 January, 1,500 people marched against cuts in Haringey in a protest called by Unite, Unison, UCATT and NUT union branches.
Haringey council looks to cut £87 million in spending over the next three years, including £46 million in 2011/12.
This will mean cuts of 1,000 jobs, over 20% of the workforce! Despite promises to 'protect front line services and the vulnerable', the initial cuts are to residential homes for adults with physical and learning disabilities, and day and drop-in centres for the elderly.
The lively and angry anti-cuts protesters marched to a rally outside Haringey Civic Centre. One of the speakers at this rally was Labour leader of Haringey council, Claire Kober. Councillor Kober made it clear that she wasn't going to 'break the law' by setting a 'needs' budget, and she and the ruling Labour group were going to vote through the cuts. She then implored the council workers and other protesters present to join her at the 26 March TUC demo against government cuts!
The deputation to the council meeting from Haringey Alliance for Public Services (HAPS) explained why the cuts were not economically necessary and called on councillors to not vote for cuts. HAPS members said that if councillors were not prepared to vote against cuts, they should step aside to make way for those who would.
This was followed by an unexpected joint deputation to the council meeting from the Unison, Unite and GMB trade unions. Despite a December branch meeting of 700 Haringey local government Unison members overwhelmingly voting to fight local cuts, the trade union spokesperson said to the councillors: "we are not in the business of asking you to stand aside, we want you to stand with us and resist the cuts."
This raises the question, when the trade union officers talk about 'resisting' the cuts, do they just mean "blame the Con-Dems for all of the cuts, but back Labour councillors who vote for cuts"?
John Dolan Haringey Unison local government branch (personal capacity)
"I joined the union yesterday, I'm on my first demonstration today and I'm loving it!" These words from a Unison member summed up the mood of 400 council workers from Unison, Unite, GMB and UCATT who joined the Hull Against the Cuts lobby of the Lib Dem-controlled Hull city council on Thursday 20 January.
Probably the biggest anti-council demo in more than a decade followed a week of mass meetings that explained to the workers the full extent of the cuts in Hull. The city council joint shop stewards committee met for the first time to begin to coordinate action.
At one local workplace meeting the local Unison rep urged caution and warned against use of "left wing rhetoric" in case it puts people off. This advice was ignored by the speakers and significantly, many from that meeting joined the union and came on the lobby.
As the lobby grew, a spontaneous march started that went right round the guildhall. When it returned to the main entrance, there was only one place to go - into the council meeting itself! The councillors were forced to retreat to their offices behind locked doors.
Earlier, Steve Brady, the leader of the Labour group of councillors reiterated his earlier promise that if Labour wins the council in May, there will be no compulsory redundancies and all privatised services will be brought back in-house.
We welcome Steve's stand but to make sure that he can deliver these promises, Hull Against the Cuts is determined to build an even bigger movement that will unite the workers in the council with the voluntary sector and service users to defend jobs and services in the city.
Mike Whale Hull Socialist Party
The main public sector unions in Leicester, Unison, PCS, NUT, GMB and Unite, organised a 300-strong rally on Wednesday 19 January outside Leicester town hall. It was against a budget of cuts and job losses being voted through by Leicester's New Labour council.
Council workers' pay is being cut with the imposition of a 35-hour week. By contrast, the Socialist Party stands for jobs being created by a 35-hour week, but with no loss of pay. As well as this, eight old people's homes are being closed and 1,000 council jobs are under threat across the city. In Leicestershire county, there is a similar picture, as vital services are being slashed.
Tony Church, convenor of Leicestershire Against the Cuts, drew attention to the £120 billion of taxes left unpaid by the rich in his speech.
He was followed by Becci Heagney, from Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, who was inspired by young people who came to the rally: school and sixth-form students who face the axing of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and a lifetime of debt if they decide to go to university. She said that students would unite in struggle with workers for a decent future.
Josie Nicholls, Leicestershire County Unison branch chair, personal capacity, pointed out that councillors do have a choice. They should go into communities and workplaces to campaign for a mass movement that demands that the government saves jobs and funds decent public services, with no rise in council tax.
Sir Peter Soulsby, Labour MP for Leicester South, said that he would "stand with trade unions" and blamed the Tories and Lib Dems for the cuts. But his speech offered nothing in the way of ideas or concrete support.
Andrew Walton Leicester Socialist Party