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)
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.
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!
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
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”.
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.
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!
On Tuesday 31st July, workers in Birmingham City Council’s Home Care service will be taking the first of 14 days of strike action against plans to cut staff hours, following on from redundancies and changes to shift patterns already imposed earlier this year. Below we reproduce the text of a leaflet that Socialist Party members will be taking to the picket lines as part of our support for the strike.
Birmingham City Council are once again attacking their workers. Last year it was the Bin Workers and now they are coming for the Home Care staff!
A further £3m is being cut from the enablement service budget. Part of the proposals is to make all full time staff redundant and offer them contracts for either 23, 21 or 14 hours.
At the same time the Council are spending £12m on consultants to tell them how to merge the service with NHS services in 2019/20, in likely preparation for privatisation of both services.
The 14 days of strike action announced by UNISON is a massive show of strength and determination of the Home Care workers to stand up for their jobs and terms and conditions.
The Socialist Party gives you our full support and solidarity!
The Labour run Council have ignored the huge support and popularity for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message and 2017 general election manifesto amongst workers and young people. Instead the Council have continued to do the Tories’ dirty work by implementing cuts and attacking workers, bringing the city of Birmingham to its knees. Now that the Councillors feel ‘safe’ for another four years, they feel confident to carry on acting like Tories in all but name.
The Council have approximately £400 million in useable reserves. Labour Councillors could refuse point black to carry out any cuts, whilst working with unions and communities, not against them, to build a campaign for the funds needed to meet the needs of Birmingham.
The Council are shutting 14 nurseries to ‘save’ £160,000 but they spent £6 million on scab labour to try to break the bin strike last year!
£258 million planned cuts over the next 4 years shows no council service is safe. Home Care workers should take inspiration from last years Bin Worker’s victory – when we fight, we can win!
Hundreds of people attended the protest that took place on Friday 13th July in Victoria Square to protest Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. With a mix of all ages and backgrounds, there were students, workers and trade unionists present.
Birmingham Socialist Students and Birmingham Young Socialists took a leading role in the protest, engaging with young people at the 12pm walk out and protest and getting great responses. People were encouraged to write down their reasons for protesting or walking out on posters which were made into an anti-Trump wall, with contributions from many people, who recognised both Trumps words and actions as damaging to working class people.
Many times when asked to pick a reason they were protesting Trump people responded with “where do I start?”, showing just how strongly people oppose Trump and his policies, also reflected in the numbers who turned out to the lively 5pm protest. Although other left groups were present, we were the only group putting forward class politics on the day and calling for an end to not just the Trump presidency, but also to the Tory government who welcomed him here. Our stall received a great response of support from protesters and passers by who identified with our message of opposition to the racism and sexism of Trump and his party and the fight to improve the lives of the working class in both the US and the UK.