Labour Council Sues Striking Workers – Councillor Resigns From Cabinet

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Birmingham Home Care Workers and Bin Workers together outside Perry Barr bin depot.

Labour Councillor Majid Mahmood announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from his cabinet role for Clean Streets, Waste and Recycling. He credits this decision to his frustration over the Labour Council’s hostile approach to both the Bin Workers and Home Care Workers.

Yesterday, the Council made public their plans to pursue legal action against Unite and Unison for the recent industrial action taken by its council members – another example in a long list showing how far the council will go to attack its own employees as well as find new ways to waste public money. Just like how they spent over £6 million on agency staff to break the bin strike last year and £12 million on consultants to ‘streamline’ – a.k.a cut – adult and social care which the home care service is part of. Reports from Bin worker reps from the different depots of the council have expressed their anger and frustration, not at just these right-wing Labour councillors carrying out the Tory’s dirty work, but also the unelected financial officers of the council who appear to be pulling the real strings behind the scenes of who has power here in Birmingham.

Birmingham Home Care workers have been taking strike action against the Labour Council for over 12 months and have taken 50+ days’ full strike action. In December, UNISON leadership (the union leading the strike) finally gave into the rank and file membership and started building political pressure on the Labour Council Cabinet members. It was these Councillors  who agreed to the drastic cutting of the jobs in this service, reducing them to just part time positions and resulting in poverty pay for the staff.

The Home Carers have been leafleting the individual wards of the Cabinet members, including Majid Mahmood, questioning their ‘Labour values’ while they attack their own workers.

At the same time in December Unite Bin Workers overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action against the Council after only just concluding their last dispute a year ago. Additionally, last week Unison Bin  members voted to for joint industrial action. The workers across both unions are currently following ‘work to rule’ which has already had an impact with missed bin collections.

This new dispute is over ‘bribe’ money which was paid to GMB  union members who did not take strike action last year. An alleged secret ‘sweetheart’ deal was made between GMB leadership and the Labour Council which saw GMB members receive a lump sum of money directly into their payslip – essentially blacklisting Unite and Unison members. The details on this deal have still not been made transparent to the public.

It is good to see a Birmingham Labour Cllr finally break away from these attacks and stand on the side of the workers, but it shouldn’t just stop there. The two issues which arise here are, one of Cllr Mahmood throwing in the towel so early just as both disputes were escalating. Many can support the reasons he gave for quitting his cabinet position in protest due to, as he stated, ‘his hands being tied’. However, the labour movement needs genuine fighting councillors in these positions of decision making – with their fists clenched fighting back against Tory austerity and the Blairites who carry out their deeds.

It’s worth noting the opportunists on the other end of the spectrum like Labour Councillor Lisa Trickett, the former cabinet member in charge of the bin service, who yesterday came outside the council house supposedly offering support and solidarity to the striking home care workers despite last year being the person in charge of attacking the bin workers. Trickett and other opportunist labour councillors can’t pick and choose when and which workers and communities they want to support when convenient for them and their publicity!

The unions should continue to put the political pressure on Labour, not just in Birmingham, but also nationally. Any Labour Cllrs who support the strikers need to also stand on the side of all Council workers and oppose all cuts to public services. Cllrs who truly want to stand up to Tory austerity should work with the unions to demand councils set ‘need’s budgets’ while using reserves to ensure not a single cut is made. During this time all Labour councils and trade unions can co-ordinate to mobilise workers and the public to stand up against the incredibly weak and fractured government. This would be the most effective way of bringing down ‘wobbly’ Teresa May and triggering a general election.

Labour Cllrs here in Birmingham and across the country should have their support both financially and politically withdrawn by unions, such as Unite and Unison, if they continue to carry out the Tories dirty work. These cuts not only damage the lives of ordinary people but they also undermine the anti-austerity platform Corbyn stands on and which has received overwhelming support.

 

  • Those labour councillors who have spoken out against the actions of the Council should be applauded but they need to put those words into action!

 

  • Trade Unionist and those Labour members opposed to the council’s attacks need to ramp up the pressure on the labour Council and their support for the bin and care workers.

 

  • UNITE and UNISON should build a mass campaign towards further co-ordinated action across the council workforce in support of the home care and bin workers and against the attacks taking place across every inch of the council.

 

  • Mass meetings should be called in every department to discuss and build support.

 

  • If the Council’s legal challenge is successful, UNITE and UNISON should call a joint national demonstration and rally in defence of the action taken by council workers.

 

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Birmingham Socialist Party members outside Perry Barr bin depot on Wednesday 16th January 2019 in solidarity with the Bin Workers.
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Home Care and Bin Workers: Unite To Defend Jobs And Services!

On 28th December, Birmingham City Council’s bin workers will begin action short of a strike after it emerged that those who took part in 2017’s strike were discriminated against in not receiving payments made to members of other trade unions. Meanwhile the dispute between the council and local home care workers enters its 18th month. Here we reproduce the text of a bulletin distributed at council workplaces:

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Bin Workers Vote To Work To Rule

Bin workers struck to save jobs and beat the Blairite council last year, after three months of action led by general union Unite. But new information suggests the council paid £4,000 directly to workers who did not strike – in effect, blacklisting striking Unite members.
Birmingham’s Labour council disgusted many by spending £6 million on a strike-breaking workforce during the dispute. It is sinking still further with these payments. At a Unite meeting, furious bin workers called for fresh strikes in response with the ballot result of 94 per cent in favour of strike action.
The workers who received the council’s extra payment are represented by general union GMB. We need action to unite bin workers in struggle, not divide them so the employer can pick them off. The GMB leadership has not endeared itself to Birmingham nursery workers and users either. It has agreed the Blairites’ plan to privatise or close the 14-remaining council-owned nurseries.

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Home Carers Enter 18th Month Of Dispute

Their dispute over cuts to hours and pay, up to £11,000 a year for some, has reached over 50 days of strike action. Rank-and-file members have pushed for more political pressure on the Labour council as they continuously fail the workers.
Frustrated that councillors have tried to ignore their action – less visible than the piles of refuse during the bin strike – home carers leafleted key cutters’ wards. Council leader Ian Ward’s area was fully leafleted in just 90 minutes! The leaflet asks residents if their councillors, by attacking low-paid women and their service users, represent “Labour values.” Councillors promised a meeting with the unions so long as home carers ceased leafleting immediately!
But the council has gone back on its word before. Ahead of May’s council elections it promised home carers could trial their own self-rostering system if they called off strikes. As soon as the elections were over, so was the self-roster trial.
Furthermore, addressing a public meeting organised by the council to ‘consult’ on budget cuts for 2019 onwards, Cllr Paulette Hamilton said she had “no regrets” about the way she’d handled the home care dispute! Let’s step up the pressure on these Blairite councillors to make sure they’re the ones eating humble pie soon.

 

The Council says there is no money for these services, yet just like how money was wasted on contracted labour to break the bin strike, the Council have also wasted £12 million on consultants to ‘streamline’ adult social care services in Birmingham – a.k.a. cuts!

 

The bin workers’ victory in 2017 was a source of inspiration for the home
carers to take on the council themselves. Joint strikes by these workers would strengthen both disputes. Nursery campaigners could join up too as they continue their protests against the sell-off of the city’s nurseries. They are all fighting the same enemy and the same threat to jobs, pay, conditions and public services. The bin dispute shows that even though one battle was won, the Council will continue its war on workers. The Council leader may have changed but their agenda has not!

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Birmingham Socialist Party members on a protest in support of the Home Care workers in August 2018

As well as industrial pressure, the unions should work together to apply political
pressure on the Labour council. Last year, Unite assistant general secretary Howard
Beckett rightly told the council: “If you act like Tories, we’ll treat you like Tories.”
The unions should withdraw support from any councillor who continues to impose austerity. Anti-cuts councillors would instead use the platform to build a mass campaign to win more funding from central government, using reserves and borrowing to set no-cuts budgets in the meantime.

 

This Tory Government is weak, divided and unstable – a general election could be called at any moment! Therefore, it is senseless for Birmingham Labour Council to be fighting against its workers when it could be using its influence to fight Central Government.
The Council should work with other Labour Councils across the country to stand up to Tory cuts and no longer act as their axemen. At the same time, it would not take much for the Trade Unions to organise co-ordinated action to not only support the local councils but also to bring the government to its knees.
Now is a better time than ever for the Council to go on the offensive and work with local people and its workers to demand the money Birmingham needs to properly fund services and protect jobs, terms and conditions. And if Labour Councillors reject this proposal and continue to attack their own staff and the trade unions members – then the trade unions should withdraw, not only their support, but also their financial backing, of any candidate which imposes austerity. In their place new candidates standing on a no-cuts platform should be put forward instead.

 

 

Birmingham Labour Council Faces Fresh Strike Action Over Christmas! Bin Workers and Home Carers unite!

Birmingham Labour Council won’t get an easy Christmas as two of its workforces are in the process of being balloted for strike action over the festive period.

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Striking Home Care workers at Perry Barr bin depot – where the workers there had been on strike in 2017.

Birmingham Home Carers, as this is being written, are currently returning their ballots for the deadline of December 4th. The workers will decide on whether to carry on their dispute around cuts in hours and pay of up to £11,000 a year for some. Already into 12 months of the dispute, and over 47 strike days action, UNISON – the union leading the strike – have been forced to put more political pressure on the Labour Council by the rank and file members.

Frustrated by the lack of affect the full day’s strike action has been having on the Council, as it’s a service which is behind closed doors and not pulling the Councillor’s emotive strings – the workers have taken to leafletting targeted wards of specific Councillors who agreed on the decision to cut their service. The wards include Labour Council leader Ian Ward – his constituency was leafletted in a full 90 minutes! The leaflets call out the political decisions the councillors have made and ask for the citizens to contact their councillor if they feel they aren’t showing ‘Labour values’ – those values which have been behind the massive popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies.

Within a few days of this tactic the Councillors called a meeting with the unions to try to resolve the issue but only if the Home Carers ceased leafletting immediately! However, the Councillors have gone back on their word before as they did around the May Council Elections: promising the Home Carers could trial their own self roster if the worker’s called off five days of strike action. As soon as the elections were over, the Council took off the self-roster trial. Many of the Home Carers are still angered by the ‘betrayal’ of the Council and are pushing for a yes vote for further strike action in the most recent ballot. Their energy has been further renewed by the breaking news that the Birmingham Bin Workers are set to be balloted and potentially be striking at the same time as the Home Carers.

The Bin Worker’s strike and victory over saving the health and safety posts last year after three months of strike action, led by Unite, was a source of inspiration for the Home Care workers to take on the Council themselves. Recent information has come to light indicating the Council paid workers in GMB union (who did not take part in the strike) extra by going to work – blacklisting the Unite members who were on the other side of the picket.

Unite has now held a members’ meeting where the workers called for strike action and will start the balloting process to be finished on December 14th. If a yes vote the worker’s will be out from the 28th December.

Birmingham Socialist Party calls on both Unite and Unison to take joint action as their disputes are tied by cuts to public services and the worsening of jobs, terms and conditions. Furthermore, the unions should work together to apply political pressure on the Blairite Labour Councillors in Birmingham. Last year Howard Beckett, deputy leader of Unite, said ‘if you act like Tories, we’ll treat you like Tories’. That day now needs to be here. After acting as the Tories axeman – year after year attacking its workers – the unions need to withdraw their support from any councillor who continues to impose austerity and stand fighting no-cuts candidates in their place. As well as pushing mandatory re-selection through the Labour Party to ensure all public representatives are held to account.

If these Councillors are allowed to stay in their positions unchallenged, not only will it weaken the unions’ positions, but it will also jeopardise a further surge behind Corbyn if a general election were to be called. The Home Carers, Bin Workers and people of Birmingham, while wanting to support Corbyn’s anti austerity platform, experience the brutal sting of Labour cuts closer to home. If local Councillors refused to implement any cuts, stand on socialist policies, and set ‘no cut’s budgets while using reserves to fill the immediate black hole in funding, it would put Labour in a much stronger position and strengthen Corbyn to call for a general election during the current weak, diabolical state of the Tory Government. Once Corbyn is in no. 10 he could reverse all cuts and pay back the money owed to all councils.

Birmingham workers can lead the way in this struggle by applying the pressure on their unions – we need to fight against every single cut that is made and fight for socialist policies to protect both workers and communities!

Join the Socialists today!

Save Birmingham’s Services! Public Meeting 29th October

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Theresa May recently claimed that “austerity is over” – not in Birmingham it isn’t! Over the next three years, there’s £350m planned cuts to the city’s services, including Homecare workers having their hours slashed and all 14 council run nurseries threatened with closure.

 

Come to our public meeting in Acocks Green on Monday 29th of October to hear from former Militant Labour MP Dave Nellist and Homecare workers’ representative Mandy Buckley on the alternative to cuts, and how we can organise to defeat both the Tories and the Blairites running Birmingham City Council.

 

The meeting starts at 7pm at Acocks Green Methodist Church, Shirley Road B27 7YE (directions here)

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A Socialist Party stall in Acocks Green

 

Birmingham Socialist Student’s First Meeting Of Term: Students And Workers Unite!

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Birmingham Socialist Students showing solidarity with the Birmingham Home Care Workers currently on strike.

Birmingham Socialist Party and Socialist Students member, Holly Leach, reports of last week’s citywide Birmingham Socialist Student’s meeting:

On the evening of Wednesday 3rd October, Birmingham’s first Socialist Student meeting of the term was held. The event managed to reach out to young students and workers who seek to transform this elitist society we see today. 35 people attended, and they filled the room with their eager and enthusiastic perspectives. This diverse group that gathered, consisted of students from Colleges and Universities, including the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University, as well as young local workers.

The discussion was focused upon ‘how we can defeat the Tories and fight for Socialism”, addressing the paramount importance of the role of students as we strive to abolish our capitalist establishment and implement an organised socialist programme. It was evident that young people are not blind to the greedy nature of the Tory Party, with more and more of our youthful community recognising the exploitative measures that are enforced on a daily basis that the working class are forced to face the repercussions of. So, a key conclusion that I left this meeting with was that the Tory part must not undermine the perceptivity and insight of our working-class youth concerning the corruption of our current society.

The meeting received an extremely positive reception from the attendees, which is exemplified by the fact that it soon developed into an interactive discussion that evidently could have continued for much longer than the allotted hour. Hence, proving how Socialist ideas are remaining popular amongst young people, with the inquisitive questions and thoughtful contributions that sprouted from the opening speech of Wednesday’s meeting. Particularly, in this era of mass austerity, with huge council cuts that are leading to poverty inducing pay – it is essential that we promote a level of interdependence that is required between both students and workers. This concept was a crucial theme that I noticed throughout the meeting, for example it was concluded with Birmingham Socialist Students and Young Socialists expressing solidarity with a picture of support to Birmingham Home Care Workers, who are still in the midst of strike action against a Blairite Labour Council, who are proposing cuts of £3 million to the enablement service budget. Clearly, it is time to get organised and continue to progress in building this force of unity between working-class students and workers.

Cuts Continue To Bite In Brum

Below we publish a letter sent to The Socialist by a Socialist Party Member in Birmingham

Workers of Birmingham are facing attack after attack since the Blairite Labour councillors have been in charge of running the City Council. In 2010 the city council, which is the largest in Western Europe, employed a workforce of 21,000. It has now been reduced to 11,000 with still more cuts to come! It has reduced the wages and benefits of the remaining employees. 

 

We have seen a vicious policy of outsourcing vital services to private companies, who if taking on those council workers which are transferred over, have received worse terms and conditions of employment. The public have also received a hopelessly reduced and inadequate services from these private businesses!   

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Homecare workers picketing the council’s Woodcock Street office

 

Already since 2010 up until 2017, £642 million has been taken from the budget, with £350 million cuts demanded by the Tories by the end of 2021. This will make a grand total of £992 million from the total budget that is received today of £3 billion!!

 

We have 17,040 households queuing up for council housing, although the council has, by asking those on the register for housing to make a new application, through sleight of hand suddenly made 8000 families dissapear from Birmingham’s council house waiting list by applying tougher rules and ‘stricter’ means testing.

 

You may think that this council is getting away with blue murder but you would be wrong. We have seen the magnificent struggle of the bin workers who struck for 12 weeks against the loss of 103 jobs and won a victory in defeating the Blairite councillors in retaining their workmates jobs, terms and conditions. This has inspired the Home Care workers who are under attack to fight back. The Socialist Party has supported these workers in their struggles and fought against the austerity policies that these cowardly Blairite Labour councillors have carried through.

 

We are confident that we will build the forces of socialism and win more workers to the ideas and programme we stand for:

  • Councillors should set a needs budget and use the reserves along with prudential borrowing.
  • Trade Union rights of council workers must be respected, along with the restoration of all lost terms and conditions.  
  • No to privatising council services, all those services privatised should be brought back in-house.
  • For a mass campaign among council workers and the workers of Birmingham in support against austerity and demand that the Tories hand back the money stolen from the budget of Birmingham City Council.

 

We also ask Jeremy Corbyn that if these Blairite Councillors persist in their attacks on workers and implementing Tory austerity programme that they should be suspended from the Labour Party.

Bill Murray. Birmingham South East Socialist Party Branch.

Note: The finance information has been taken from Birmingham City Council Budget 2017/18 which can be found on its website          

 

“Tories Must Go” Demonstration In Birmingham

On the eve of the Tory party conference in Birmingham, people gathered in Victoria Square to protest Tory and Blairite austerity, say enough is enough, and demand an urgent snap election.

It is no secret that this Tory government is no friend of the working class. They have done nothing but focus on the interests of the ruling class, recklessly implementing austerity measures at the expense of working class people. Today, a sad consequence is workers such as nurses have to resort to using food banks.

A defiant rally included Birmingham home care striker and Unison public sector union member Mandy Buckley, secretary of the West Midlands Fire Brigades Union Andrew Scattergood, and a statement on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn.

Frustration was evident. It is about time that the Tories are held to account for their actions alongside the Blairite councillors who impose cuts on their behalf.

Birmingham home care workers are on strike against a Blairite Birmingham City Council which is attacking their working conditions. They led the successful, lengthy and noisy demonstration on the streets of Birmingham. The general public were met with chants of “when they say cut back, we say fight back” and “students and workers, unite and fight”.

Response

Socialist Party members worked tirelessly so we could get the best possible response to our ideas. We pushed for an end to public sector cuts and the need for a snap election, stressing the importance of coordinated and organised mass action to force the already unstable and divided Tories from power.

We sold over 100 copies of the Socialist, raised over £50 for the fighting fund and met people who wanted to join the Socialist Party throughout the day. Well done to all involved! This is just the start of the fightback, not the end.