Last week Homecare workers struck and lobbied Birmingham Council in protest at being threatened with redundancy unless they agreed to move from fulltime employment to part time and in opposition to what they fear is the start of privatisation and charging for what is currently a free service. Over 200 (of 280) workers lobbied the council on August 2nd and large numbers picketed outside 4 council depots in the city on Aug 3. Senior Union rep Mandy Buckley said – ‘we are a force to be reckoned with’, ‘we are going to picket the Council buildings to let other staff know – if they can do it to us, they can do it to you’.
The general mood amongst all the carers were they are deeply hurt by the Council’s betrayal and that it has come to this. They fear for the service and the people of Birmingham. They see this struggle, as not only defending their jobs but also to defend public services – and they do it for the users they already care for.
They said the people they look after wouldn’t be able to pay for it if it went private. There was a massive member’s meeting to prepare them for the action and the strong turnouts and determination of the mainly women workers will have shocked bosses.
Reports from the picket protests:
One Homecare worker said: “We’re saddened by what the Council are doing. After 20 years of service it’s being thrown back in our faces. However, we are determined to fight.”
Erdington: The strikers at Erdington were infused with energy and anger, given that the cuts in hours and pay will dramatically effect their standard of living. They were well
received by a general public who were equally angry with seeing their public services dismantled in front of them.
Woodcock Street: Home Carers were eager to reach out to other council workers. Wanting to let the other staff know ‘if they can do it to us, they can do it to you’. They
were in high spirits ready to take on the battle against the Labour Party bosses in the Council’
Lancaster Circus: Over 20 Homecare workers were on the picket outside Lancaster Circus, with strikers pleased to be finally taking concerted action after the latest slap in the face from management. Many workers in other departments stopped to show their support for the strike. One carer commented: “I’d like to see the likes of Ian Ward try and do our job for a day!”
Lifford House: Around 40 home care workers picketed here and they were getting loads of beeps from passing motorists. They leafletted other gates used by most workers and got a warm response including one worker who gave £20 to the strike fund.
While the strike and lobby was happening outside the council building – campaigners from the Fairway day centre were also lobbying the council. The Council went ahead with their plan to close the day centre. What a sad comment on Birmingham City Council.
How could the Council use reserves to defend services & reject Tory austerity?
For years Labour Councillors have claimed they’re against cuts but continue to carry them out. The Socialist Party has consistently argued that councils should lead a public campaign for more money from the Tories by setting budgets based on local service needs and refusing to make any cuts as Liverpool City Council did in 1983-87.
Previously many right-wing Labour councillors have justified passing on Tory cuts to local services on the grounds that the government would ‘take over’ the running of their council. This always exaggerated the powers the government had, but now that position is even less credible.
If just one Labour-led council declared that they will use their borrowing powers and reserves (Brum has over £400m!!) to stop all cuts, whilst building a campaign and working with Unions and communities rather than attacking them – in the expectation that they would be reimbursed by a future Labour government—which may be just months away! – what could the Tories do?
In our view Jeremy Corbyn should tell the Council that carrying on Tory austerity is just not on!