What a racket! Hundreds of car (and some bus and truck) horns were honked in support of Springfield Primary School teachers on Thursday 24 May when the National Education Union (NEU) members took their first day of strike action against further job losses and increased workloads.
Springfield, in south east Birmingham, is set to become an academy, but the effects of academisation are already taking place. Over the past year experienced teachers and support staff have already been cut, and now more experienced teachers – some who taught the parents of current pupils at the school – are for the chop. The job losses would result in increased workloads that are already at a dangerously high level.
The NEU members believe that further increases to workloads will reduce their ability to provide the school children with the high-quality teaching they deserve. Yet at the same time there are plans for four, non-teaching, director roles! Alternative proposals put forward by the NEU have been ignored. It is no surprise that staff morale is at an all-time low. Aghast at the size of and support for the strike, management ushered pupils into school while trying to stop them talking to their own teachers!
The NEU members, who will escalate action after half term if the plans aren’t dropped, marched along the roads outside the school at the end of the picket. The fantastic support for the pickets from parents, children and the wider community shows the value of a community school with settled, experienced teachers. Academisation, forced following an Ofsted inspection, tares that apart.
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The Socialist Party in Birmingham would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who went out and voted for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the local elections on Thursday. We would particularly like to thank all members and supporters who took part in our campaign and who worked hard to put forward anti-austerity and socialist policies.
Now the results are in, Birmingham Council has remained Labour controlled and with it being 4 years until the next election we can expect a continuation of their cuts and attacks on workers.
On Tuesday 1st May, at the successful Birmingham Socialist Party public meeting on the Council elections, the cuts and how councils can fight them, many points were raised about how the cuts being carried out by Labour Councils will have a damaging effect on Corbyn’s anti-austerity message – which was the reason behind the Labour surge in last year’s general election. The role is already having an apathetic and disenfranchised effect on Birmingham voters as the press reports it was a relatively low turnout – perfectly illustrating people did not feel there was a choice between the two main political parties and the cuts they offer (just under a different colour!).
The meeting, introduced by Dave Nellist, ex Militant Labour MP and current National Chair of TUSC, and the lively and passionate contributions from the floor which followed highlighted the role councils could play in supporting Corbyn’s policies by refusing to carry out the cuts and instead to work locally with trade unions and community groups to build up an anti-cuts resistance.
It was noted this tactic is far from the role Birmingham Council actually does. Instead the Labour Council decides to attack their own workforce, with the bin workers last year and the home care workers this year. This role they play is more damaging to Corbyn’s anti austerity message than anything!
It was also noted the current ballot by the FBU (Fire Brigade’s Union) of their members in the West Midlands Local Fire Authority who, if a yes vote, will be out on strike against a Labour ran authority as they continue to change their job descriptions to take on roles which, if it were not for devastating cuts, should be done by social care and the NHS.
The main feeling which was taken away from the meeting and can be reflected on now the elections are over is the cuts are not a game. They are having a horrific impact on Birmingham’s communities and for some is a life and death situation. With homelessness on the rise, worker’s being stripped of their jobs, vulnerable people losing the care they need and the precarious conditions for many families and young people. These are the reasons why Birmingham Socialist Party saw no other option than to stand under the banner of TUSC to challenge Labour Councillors who believe it is ok to carry out the Tories bidding and to bring down the people of Birmingham rather than this weak and wobbly Tory government.
And it is these same reasons Birmingham Socialist Party will continue fighting against the cuts, the housing crisis, in defence of the NHS and for socialist policies. So if you voted for TUSC please join us in building the socialist voice in the future battles that are going to take place against the Tory government and their system.
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Congratulations on becoming a firefighter – now go and pick up a hospital patient and cross your fingers that no one needs a fire put out while you’re at it.’ That is the future planned for firefighters by the Labour-led West Midlands Fire Authority, but a future that won’t be accepted by firefighters and emergency control operators, who are now balloting for strike action.
The planned contracts would mean new firefighters having to take on non-fire service duties – like those you’d expect NHS workers to be employed to do. In fact, it’s already happening – loss-making ‘care contacts’ signed by the Fire Authority have already taken fire staff and engines off front line duties.
These changes come under an anti-union, bullying management that are also introducing flexible working – that’s flexible for the bosses of course, changing working hours on short notice. Dial-a-firefighter: the gig economy for trained emergency staff, implemented by a Labour-led Fire Authority which is also suspending employees for union campaigning. No wonder FBU union members have had enough!
On 30 April, the day before balloting began, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack spoke to many union members at meetings in Solihull and Dudley. Socialist Party members gave support to firefighters at the Solihull meeting, who were glad to hear that anti-cuts TUSC candidates were standing against right-wing, anti-union, anti-Corbyn Labour councillors – the sort that lead the county’s Fire Authority. Ten copies of the Socialist were sold.
Last year saw Birmingham’s bin workers take strike action to stop job cuts and savage pay cuts attempted by the city’s Labour council – again showing that organised, hard fought action can win. As one person going into the meeting said: “This could be the 2018 Birmingham bins.”
Socialists and the 2018 local elections in Birmingham
May 3rd will see local elections take place in Birmingham, with all 101 of the redrawn council wards and seats being contested.
Nationally the Tories continue to show that they are not “strong and stable” but weak and wobbly. The 2017 general election called by Theresa May was supposed to follow the Conservative script – an increased majority for May, with Corbyn’s Labour suffering. The actual results were very different. We predicted that Corbyn’s anti austerity policies would be popular despite the constant sabotage of the Labour right wing. The outcome showed that working class people are looking for change – not surprising given year after year of austerity cuts.
Unfortunately Corbyn’s anti austerity leadership has not yet been reflected in Labour Councils across the country, and Birmingham is no exception.
We have outlined previously how we think the council should be opposing the cuts by refusing to pass on Tory austerity and campaigning to win back money stolen from Birmingham by central government, a strategy which has obtained support at a national level within the local government trade unions as well as union branches locally. Sadly, instead of using some of the substantial reserves (which have now risen since 2010!) to fund services and hold down council tax whilst a campaign is built, they have chosen to reduce library services, close nurseries, cut thousands of jobs and attack Bin and Homecare workers. Birmingham is suffering massively from the crisis of capitalism – we need public representatives who are going to help organise resistance to these attacks.
In recent elections the Socialist Party, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has stood in the city. We wanted to ensure that there was an anti austerity and socialist voice when both of the main parties offered more of the same, pro cuts pro big business polices – this stance being supported by several thousand votes across the city. In the 2017 general election we took the decision not to stand in order to support Jeremy’s battle against the Tories – we distributed thousands of leaflets outlining why the Socialist Party supported Corbyn’s policies, and why they needed to be extended further.
In 2018 we recognise that Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to build on his anti austerity message at a time when the Tories are on the ropes. Therefore we will not be contesting all wards, but will be standing in 10.
Acocks Green Eamonn Flynn
Bournbrook & Selly Park Sam Witts
Bournville & Cotteridge Clive Walder
Brandwood & Kings Heath Bill Murray
Castle Vale Kris O’Sullivan
Handsworth Wood Rachel Jenkins
Perry Barr Corinthia Ward
Shard End Mark Andrews
Stockland Green Ted Woodley
Weoley & Selly Oak Nick Brook-Hart
Whilst recognising Jeremy’s position and so standing in fewer seats, we are continuing to fight austerity and the capitalist crisis using every opportunity we have, whether that’s taking part in campaigns to save the NHS and other key services, helping to build stronger, more militant unions, or standing in elections.
We will be continuing to put forward the idea that councillors do have a choice to oppose the cuts, both in the council chamber and on the streets, and that working class people should not pay for the capitalist crisis.
We will be arguing that to end the situation where thousands of Birmingham kids are living in poverty we will need to create a socialist society that puts ordinary people before profit. A socialist society that through public ownership of the key sectors of the economy including the banks, can plan the enormous resources that exist for the benefit of the majority.
We urge you to support our candidates in the wards where we are standing, attend our public meeting, help our campaign by for example making a donation, putting up a poster or volunteering to distribute leaflets. We also would encourage you to think about joining the Socialist Party – help us build a mass socialist movement armed with the policies that can defeat capitalism once and for all.
‘Birmingham’s Labour Council “needs a sharp kick up the backside” says the Trades Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who have announced that they will be standing 10 candidates in this year’s Birmingham City Council elections.
They will be standing against a number of Council cabinet members who they see as the architects of austerity policies in the Council House.
The group are pledged to opposing all cuts to and privatisation of council services. They are committed to adopting a balanced and legal no cuts budget using reserves and existing borrowing powers while campaigning for the government to return money it has “stolen” from Birmingham, thus enabling them to restore Birmingham’s shattered public services.
TUSC spokesperson Ted Woodley who is standing in Stockland Green ward, said “Birmingham City Council have about £400 million in usable reserves so there is no excuse for passing on the vicious cuts demanded by the weak and wobbly Tory government”
TUSC is highly critical of Labour councils carrying out government diktat to implement cuts across the country and in particular they condemn Birmingham council for spending £6 million trying to cut jobs and pay in the bin service yet choosing to threaten 14 nurseries with closure to save only £160,000. “Councils have a choice to carry out Tory government dirty work or try to stand up for the people of Birmingham.”
TUSC supported Binworkers in last year’s dispute and a number of bin workers have expressed support for TUSC standing candidates. TUSC condemns the waste of more than £6 million of public money in an effort to reduce bin workers’ pay by a supposedly cash strapped council.
Bill Murray, candidate in Brandwood & Kings Heath, added “We would have much preferred to be supporting a Birmingham Labour Party carrying out Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies. But as they aren’t, we have no alternative but to stand and present an anti-austerity, no-cuts alternative to all the mainstream parties to defend local services and offer voters a real choice”
Ted is a member of the RMT transport union, another of the components of TUSC
1) TUSC will host a pre-election public meeting on Tuesday 1st May 7.30 at the Victoria, John Bright Street,City Centre Birmingham. The national chair of TUSC, Dave Nellist will speak at it. Dave was the Labour MP for Coventry South East from 1983 to 1992, when he was expelled from the Labour Party as one of the leaders of the anti-poll tax campaign that brought down Tory premier Margaret Thatcher. He was a Socialist Party Councillor in Coventry 1998 -2012.
TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow of the RMT transport workers’ union, together with other leading trade unionists, the Socialist Party and other socialist groups, to provide an electoral alternative for those opposing austerity.
For information and video clips about TUSC see: www.tusc.org.ukFor interviews and any other information requests, please email: email@example.com or call Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC National Election Agent on 020-8988-8773 or 07989-360158.Dave Nellist can also be contacted on 07970-294237
Not even the snow could keep away pickets and their supporters from demonstrating outside Birmingham City Council house this Saturday. Socialist Party and Socialist Students members joined over one hundred people gathered at Victoria Square to stand up to the latest council attacks against the Homecare workers, including redundancies and ridiculous shift changes that make workers lives more difficult, make the job unsustainable for many, and are therefore detrimental to the service users as well.
There were many different trade union speakers, with one woman saying how the home-care workers did not want redundancies, that they loved their job and the care they provided, however they demand fair pay and more practical and sociable working hours. The speakers were followed by a short march around the city centre.
When speaking to unison stewards and striking home-carers, many expressed how happy they were to see so much student support. There were calls for a ‘people’s budget’ and for the labour councils to finally reflect the labour leadership that gained so much support from workers and students over summer, and to stand up to the brutal tory austerity.
It’s time for the council to put their words into action and to defend our public services and workers. Our support and general anti-austerity message was well received and, despite the extreme weather, there was a positive and passionate vibe from strikers and supporters, all agree it’s time for our second city to stand up to the labour council who refuse to stand up for us!
On 20 January, Birmingham home care staff will be taking strike action against their employer Birmingham City Council – a Labour council.
The Blairite Birmingham City Council is making quite a name for itself having only recently suffered a defeat to the Birmingham bin workers after their 12-week strike action which brought down the then council leader John Clancy. Now other council workers are taking a fight to its doors.
The strike is over changes to the home carers’ working patterns where they will have to work three split shifts during the day: 7am-10am, 12pm-2pm and 4pm-10pm.
These home care workers are lone workers travelling from their homes to the service users’ houses, many by public transport, to provide six weeks of care for people who have just left hospital.
These unrealistic and exhausting working patterns will become a barrier to many of the workers who will no doubt be forced to leave their jobs.
These new patterns are just one of many ways the Labour council is unravelling its social care for the people of Birmingham, a city with a population of 1.1 million.
In 2010 there was a social care workforce of over 7,000 compared to less than 2,000 today, with the council looking to make a further 40% of the home care staff redundant.
By continuing to run the service into the ground it will make it easier for the council to scrap the care altogether and leave the local community to depend on the private sector – a sector which is profit driven at the expense of both the workers and service users.
Fight for funding
Unison, which has balloted the home carers, rightly points out that central government has cut the funding for local councils but the union fails to place blame at the local Labour council too.
After the massive backing of Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto in last summer’s general election, local Labour councils are in a better position, now more than ever, to fight against austerity and refuse to carry out a single cut.
They would have the backing of the local community, workers and trade unions. Yet what does Birmingham council do? It does the Tories’ bidding and carrys out devastating cuts without putting up the tiniest bit of fight.
In the 1980s, Militant, the Socialist Party’s predecessor, had city councillors in Liverpool who defied Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and refused to implement cuts.
Instead they fought for more funding from central government, built council houses and created jobs.
It would not be hard for Birmingham council to do the same and potentially topple the current weak and divided Tory government, yet this is unlikely to happen while the council is a Blairite stronghold following the same ideology as the Tories.
Birmingham home carers will be striking from 11am to 2.30pm on Saturday 20 January with a strike rally being held outside Birmingham council house at 12pm.
The strike will be seen as more than just about their working patterns but also a fight to defend public services and the service users they care for.
On the 10th of January 2018 Birmingham Socialist Party activists attended the first and last public budget ‘consultation’ meeting of Birmingham City Council.
It had been decided by cabinet members that only one public meeting would suffice and it was to be held at the council house in the city centre. It goes without saying that this caused a barrier for many residents of Birmingham to potentially attend this consultation and have their concerns and voice’s heard due to several factors such as mobility issues, work shifts, family obligations etc.
So seeing how important this new budget is and how it is going to detrimentally affect the people of Birmingham through massive funding reductions to their public services you would think cabinet members of the council would want to inform and engage as many residents as possible by holding several local community based meetings in order to enable as many people to attend.
Apparently this was not done as internal council statistics & experience showed more people engaged via social media and on-line surveys. This was not believed by anyone in attendance. In truth this was no ‘consultation’ as cabinet members had decided long before to pass the cuts and it was easier to hold one big rubber-stamp meeting in the convenience of their own offices so a box could be ticked and they could just continue with business as usual.
This impression was only strengthened by the use of language and tone by council leader Ian Ward, who during his introduction of the budget meeting came across as if he was just going through the motions and was already defeated. There was no talk of a fightback and a programme of resistance, but instead that the council had exhausted its ‘’lobbying options’’. An excuse that is not good enough when it comes to the living standards of working-class people in this city.
Despite this many people showed up and members of the audience made the crucial points of how these cuts would only bring misery and compound the many social issues in Birmingham such as the growing number of people becoming homeless and youth unemployment. Specifically campaigners from local nurseries and homecare workers who are currently seeing their funding cut relayed to council how the vital services they provide are a lifeline for many families in the city, especially for those from lower income backgrounds. It’s not speculation but fact that if funding is cut, contact time reduced and staff made redundant we will see the already growing levels of deprivation in this city skyrocket.
There were two main themes I saw being the most stark when it came to this Labour council doing the Tories’ dirty work, those being the question of why are these cuts being made in the first place and is there no alternative?
These large-scale cuts kicked off over 10 years ago, following from a financial crisis caused by greedy bankers speculating away the nations wealth. But instead of them and their friends in the Conservative party paying for their mistake it was shifted onto normal working-class people, instead of cutting from the top who could afford it the cuts were targeted at the bottom attacking our schools, jobs and public services whilst the very same bankers got pay-rises and corporations hide billions in tax evasion.
With this in mind it is understandable that members of the audience, many of whom have experienced first-hand how devastating these cuts are, to have Labour representatives which is meant to be a party to defend the working-class to meekly say that the £750m+ worth of cuts made from 2010 up to 2022 has been done with a heavy heart is not legitimate excuse.
As members of the Socialist Party Bill Murray & Eamon Flynn raised, these cuts are a political choice not a practical necessity, especially seeing how Britain is one of the wealthiest countries on the face of planet. These members raised the points how the much welcomed anti-austerity politics coming from the top of Labour party from a select few such as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell needs to start being reflected on the ground by Labour councils.
This could be done if these Labour councils spearheaded a mass campaign of refusing to implement the cuts using council reserves to ward of any austerity in the short term using it as a springboard to mobilise working-class communities against the closure of their public services and to win back the funding cut by central government over the last eight years. This could draw inspiration from previous victories such as the heroic battle that took place in Liverpool in the 1980’s where the Militant Labour council (precursor of the Socialist Party) instead of passing the cuts mobilised a grass roots campaign across the city including activists, students, trade unions resulting in more homes, schools and public services being built . This was a huge victory against the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, at the hight of her power – so why is Birmingham Labour council so scared of the weak and wobbly Theresa May at her weakest alongside a fractured Tory party?
This was not only raised by SP members but by trade unionists including representatives from the newly formed National Education Union stating that if this council actually fought against these cuts, by demanding the money from this government to set up a real peoples budget that saw no reduction in public service spending, then alongside several other unions they would back and practically assist in the building of such a campaign.
It’s time this council started actually taking the fight to the Tories instead of fellow workers, like we saw with appalling attacks on the working conditions of the bin workers. We were told in these tough times not a single penny could be wasted so why did this Labour Council waste over £6 million in the hiring of a scab army and legal procedures to undermine industrial action whilst it would of just took £300,000 to settle the dispute and maintain all the grade 3 health & safety staff. Pick your battles BCC!
However despite the many offers of support and ideas to build this campaign when it came to the end of the meeting all the cabinet members present (except councillor Trickett who had left earlier for another engagement and spent the majority of the meeting looking at her phone) stated a plethora of cop-out excuses and small violin sympathies why their ‘hands were tied’. Yet still at the end of every reply each one of them emphasised that we need to make sure we vote for them come next local election, trying to convince members of the audience they had their best interest at heart by using semi-agitational language whilst referring to the Tories.
However if they are not prepared to fight against the cuts then they should step down and let some of the new layers of Corbyn-inspired / anti-cuts Labour campaigners run for their position instead. Otherwise, when it comes to the local elections in May how can they honestly expect working-class people to vote for the axemen of their services? Instead they will find anti-cuts candidates outside the Labour party standing against them in order to provide a platform for a anti-austerity message and campaign to reach new layers of workers in Birmingham and across the country.