Why I’m Standing For TUSC

Birmingham Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates tell us why they’re standing in this May’s council election

Eamonn Flynn, Hall Green North

Working-class people need a voice in the council chamber. When the Labour Party was formed a hundred years ago, it did that job. It pulled together workers and fighting trade unionists, and gave them a voice. Not only a candidate to vote for at election time, but a movement to fight in their interests all year around.

For far too long now, the Labour Party and its candidates in council and parliamentary elections have failed to do this. In Birmingham, I have listened to councillors telling the public that there is nothing they can do to oppose cuts in council services and jobs. I would just like to see them try, as Labour councillors in the past did in Liverpool and Poplar.

If our existing councillors are not prepared to defend communities, they must step down and make way for someone that will. I think that if councillors took a stand and built a campaign to demand the funding required from the government to meet the needs of their communities, workers would stand with them in that fight, and that fight could be won.

That is why I will be standing as a TUSC candidate in May.

Abdul Haq, Billesley

I disagree with this year’s 4.99 per cent council tax rise – particularly as the West Midlands Police precept has increased. We should be funding a decent pay rise for NHS workers, not councillors’ inflated allowances.

To make change you have to be in the areas where working class people are discussing and debating. It’s the only way you can do things in Birmingham.

We need to sort out the potholes currently plaguing Billesley – I will cover the costs out of his own councillor allowance if I cannot get the council to do it.

Another key issue is street lighting in the ward, which currently leaves residents with safety fears and unable to see where they are going at night.

Ted Woodley, Oscott

Primarily, we are an anti-austerity campaign. We are campaigning for better public services and the reversal of all cuts carried out by the council since 2010.

I think I can make a difference. If we had just one socialist councillor, that would be a fantastic platform from which we could build a struggle in the community against the cuts.

A massive problem affecting Oscott – as well as the rest of the city – is a shortage of social housing, with private accommodation being very expensive and also not being maintained to a decent standard.

If elected I would push for a far more rigorous approach to dealing with rogue landlords as well as a building and refurbishment programme for social housing in the city.


Come to our West Midlands online rally at 7pm on Sunday 2nd May – Zoom ID 818 0628 0433 (no password required)

This post promoted by Joe Foster at 11 Kerby Road, Stockland Green, Birmingham B23 7EX on behalf of Birmingham TUSC candidates

Standing Against All Cuts

Between them Birmingham’s Tory and Labour councillors have carried out £750m worth of cuts since 2010, with more than 12,000 council jobs axed, with an extra £41m worth of cuts still to come this year.

These cuts have consequences and the poorest are hit the hardest.

Working-class families and communities across the city have been ignored and neglected for too many years. Birmingham Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in which Socialist Party members play a leading role, says enough is enough!

Before the pandemic the Labour council made sweetheart deals with property developers building luxury apartments and hotels in the city centre completely unaffordable to ordinary workers while ignoring the lack of council housing needed to solve the housing crisis.

We’ve still got tower blocks with Grenfell-type cladding across the city waiting for a disaster to happen, sheltered homes for the elderly and vulnerable being left to grow black mould, burst pipes, broken lobby doors with no sense of security for residents, coupled with a slow, outsourced maintenance team.

This council doesn’t have the bottle to combat dodgy and exploitative landlords. Some sitting councillors are landlords themselves!

Birmingham TUSC will be campaigning tirelessly to bring all these rogue landlords to justice, to repair and maintain all social housing so everyone can feel safe in their own home. All long-term empty properties in the city should immediately be taken under council ownership and the council should launch a crash council house building programme in order to start tackling the increasing waiting time on council housing lists.

Furthermore, Birmingham TUSC demands that all the public services including nurseries, youth centres, sports clubs, libraries, swimming pools and more that have been stolen away from working-class communities be reinstated and brought back in house.

The Commonwealth Games is an expensive vanity project and will not replace the services cut back over the last decade. The Games is not coming to the city to help working class people in Birmingham. We need community sports facilities, not PR stunts!

TUSC stands shoulder to shoulder with council workers fighting to keep our city’s services running and defending their pay and conditions, like the homecare and bin workers. The Blairite Labour councillors spent over £18m on hiring scab armies and consultants for a bin dispute that would have taken less than £1m to resolve…. But now they have the cheek to raise your council tax by 4.99%!

With socialists in the council chamber, working class people have the best chance of fighting the Westminster Tories and winning the resources our communities need for a decent life for all.

Vote TUSC and join our campaign to defend jobs, homes and services in Birmingham! We’re standing in this May’s City council by-elections in:

Billesley – Abdul Haq

Hall Green North – Eamonn Flynn

Oscott – Ted Woodley

Quinton – Mia Wroe

Come to our West Midlands online rally at 7pm on Sunday 2nd May – Zoom ID 818 0628 0433 (no password required)

Promoted by Joe Foster at 11 Kerby Road, Birmingham B23 7EX on behalf of Birmingham TUSC candidates.

Violence Against Women – We Will Not Be Silenced

In the last few days, women and men have turned out across the country to remember Sarah Everard, defying the undemocratic establishment ban on peaceful vigils. They were there to protest the everyday threat of violence and harassment that so many women face whether walking the streets, in their own homes, at school, on the university campuses or in the workplaces.

These included protests in Birmingham City Centre and on the University of Birmingham campus. Here we publish two reports:

Birmingham: Searching for political answers

Over 100 people gathered right at the heart of Birmingham in Victoria Square, outside the council offices.

This was in spite of draconian laws recently introduced by stealth by the Tories to curtail the fundamental right to protest, and demands from West Midlands Police who pressured organisers to cancel the original event.

Although the original organisers did not attend, many women and people of all genders from different communities across the city grouped in the city centre. While the event began as a vigil, it was clear that attendees were looking for political answers to the deep-rooted structural issues faced by women.

Women members of the Socialist Party took the lead in delivering speeches to the crowd, raising the need for fully funded services and a socialist future to protect women and create real equality for everyone. We encouraged other protesters to come up and speak about their own experiences.

There was great interest in the political points being made, with many taking leaflets, papers and leaving their details with members to continue to discuss how to continue to take political action despite attacks from the Tories and capitalist establishment.

Ella Foley Doyle

On Wednesday 17th March, socialist students at the University of Birmingham stood in solidarity with the Reclaim Our Campus protest; a socially distanced vigil recounting the horrific abuse women and other marginalised genders face every day. With a huge turnout of nearly a thousand UoB students, we listened to impassioned speeches and testimonies of those who had suffered as a direct result of the University’s antiquated, patriarchal, and capitalist ideals. With speeches lasting well over 2 hours, it was no surprise that the university has a long way to go to ensure the safety of its students.

Socialist Students stands wholeheartedly with this movement and demands immediate action to be taken by the University of Birmingham. As of the 16th, there have been 6 reported cases of women students being forcibly pulled into cars and assaulted surrounding the main student neighbourhood – all of which the university denied existing. And there are hundreds more cases of women being harassed, abused, and made to feel unsafe in their place of learning.

We demand the university take decisive action to condemn the misogynist culture that permeates the institution, and commit to severe disciplinary action to be taken against sexual assaulters and harassers. For too long the university has ignored survivors, facilitated abusers, and consistently put profits above the safety of their students.

We demand better funding and signposting for victim support services, a commitment of concrete action to be taken against perpetrators, and better lighting around campus and accommodation at night. You cannot put a price tag on the safety of women students, and it is all too clear that the university must do better.

Socialist Students calls for:

  • Government funding for what women need on campus – properly funded support services, campus lighting and affordable housing. Scrap marketization, fees and debt!
  • Democratic oversight of sexual harassment reporting procedures
  • A united campaign of staff and students that can fight to transform the campuses – organise for free education and make the 1% pay!
  • To fight for a socialist alternative to capitalist inequality and chaos

We’ll be joining other Socialist Students and Socialist Party members from around the country for a meeting to discuss the socialist approach to ending harassment and violence against women at 6pm on Friday 19th March – click here to register.

And on Wednesday 21st April at 4pm we’ll be holding a socially distanced protest at University of Birmingham for free education and full funding of the services we need, including measures to prevent sexual harassment.

Read more on our programme for womens’ rights and socialism recently created by female Socialist Party members here

FIGHT FOR ERDINGTON GKN JOBS!

Don’t throw workers on the scrapheap

On 28th January, not even a full month into 2021 over 500 GKN automotive workers based at the company’s Erdington plant received the devastating news that their jobs and livelihoods are to be axed. It can also be safely said that the redundancy number will in practice be much higher with its knock-on effect with associated supply chains.

However despite this being a massive shock to many staff across the factory floor and different job roles, this had been a creeping fear since 2018 when self-acclaimed ‘venture-capitalist’ (more like vulture-capitalist) company Melrose industries bought GKN in an aggressive US style hostile takeover.

Melrose dub themselves as ‘turnaround’ specialists but the only specialism we can see here is that of asset stripping and profiteer gutting of one of the UK’s oldest engineering assembly lines, helping put the final nails in the British automotive industry.

The Chester Road factory employs a highly skilled workforce with the collective knowledge and specialist technical experience across its membership spanning into a hundred plus years, an extremely viable and important workforce for the local community and city.

GKN management stated that this decision to close the plant and winding down production in preparation to move sites to another European location in an 18th month transition is due to….

an increasingly competitive global market means that the site is no longer viable’’

We say the proof is in the pudding. Why should workers who have given years and decades of their lives to the factory take management’s statement at face value? It was only two years prior that Melrose promised that GKN job security was guaranteed and top priority.

We at the Socialist Party say GKN and Melrose Industries need to open their books and have the accounts reviewed democratically and transparently by Unite and rank and file worker’s representatives to truly see what resources are available and where the money is going.

It would be interesting to see what money and bonuses Melrose bosses and shareholders are receiving at the same time as over 500 ordinary workers are being told their jobs are on the chopping block.

It was only two years ago in preparation for their hostile takeover of GKN that the top brass of Melrose received large ‘incentive packages’ with the top four executives receiving £41.7 million each, equalling an eye-watering total of £166.8 million!

This obscene amount being declared by company management as ‘completely vital and essential’. Quite a healthy chunk of capital that could have been invested in GKN and its staff.

It’s not like top management are not raking in some healthy-looking salaries already, Melrose CEO Simon Peckham receiving a pay packet of £976,000 in 2019.

Melrose seems to be following the same pattern as when Royal Mail bosses also back in 2018 gave out a £5.8 million ‘’golden hello’ incentive payments to boss Rico Back, however Royal Mail bosses lost their battle for job cuts, site closure and stripping T&C’s through a strong coordinated union fightback.

Also Unite members at the Rolls Royce plant in Barnoldswick in Lancashire recently halted bosses’ plans to mothball the site after a determined campaign of strike action, showing that job cuts in manufacturing can be beaten.

Fightback against the race to the bottom

The proposed closure of the Chester Road plant is a new blow for manufacturing workers, in the midst of a new wave of deindustrialisation that is weakening the UK economy and ultimately resulting in further attacks and a race to the bottom on the living standards of working-class communities.

The company blames the factory closure on vague corporate soundbites such as ‘global market competition’ but in reality, plant production has and is being set up to fail.

The reality is that Melrose and GKN upper management are using fluctuations in demand to try and divest itself of factories in countries with a higher wage bill – that’s what’s behind the company’s talk of Chester Road Plant’s ‘cost disadvantage’ and lack of ‘efficiency’.

It is not in the interests of the working class of any country to let big corporations continue the race to the bottom and pull out of countries where wages and conditions are higher.

GKN with its strings pulled by Melrose typifies one of the fundamental contradictions in capitalism, which drives down wages in order to pump profits up, but then finds that workers collectively don’t have the money to buy the products they have produced.

Just like the railways, we are subsidising huge profit-making companies but getting no control over decisions like job cuts and relocations in return.

The only lasting solution is to nationalise the industry.

Many workers will have questions how this could work. How, for example, can you nationalise factories that only make a component, not a finished article that workers want to buy?

But in reality most factory workers have been through a transition where a factory introduces a new line of product. Here the government would provide the necessary investment to fund the transition, including prioritising switching to environmentally friendly production and products.

Instead of setting up task forces to direct workers to non-existent alternative jobs, democratically elected committees involving the workforce and consumers could identify what might be produced and what is needed.

An example like that could spread like wildfire and compel further action, across Britain and further afield. It was a Tory government that was compelled to nationalise Rolls-Royce in the 1970s.

Plans of action

We fully hope that management genuinely engage with Unite around the negotiation table and work with worker representatives to find a solution to save all the jobs at the plant. However if management shut down talks or refuse to engage in plans and alternatives to save the 500 plus livelihoods on the line then Unite should not shy away from taking industrial action to defend jobs, taking steps such as…

  1. Balloting members for industrial action to go on strike, walkouts and safe socially distanced pickets, formation of strike committee open to all workers, mass distribution dispute information across all sites and local communities to build cross city support and social media.
  2. Calling for the immediate stepping in from the government to nationalise the plant and its current or repurposed production under democratic workers control and management with compensation only on proven need.
  3. To fight for every job both in house and agency.

 If you agree with the points and suggested demands raised or want to discuss differences or alternatives, please feel free to get in touch with the contact details below

birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com

07530429441

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Jaguar Land Rover Bosses Put Profits First

Despite Covid infections and hospitalisations being on the rise over the last few weeks, many workers in non-essential jobs are being forced to travel into work, putting themselves and their families at risk.

We spoke to a worker and union member at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull, where production has continued despite a large proportion of the workforce testing positive:

“It’s not lockdown is it? People aren’t happy. This factory must be the biggest spreader of Coronavirus in the West Midlands.

We’re under constant pressure from managers to keep cars rolling off the line. To achieve this the morning and afternoon shifts have been put on 45 hour weeks instead of the usual 37 through compulsory overtime. We’re worried this change to shift patterns will become permanent.

The use of overtime and workers from other sites to fill the gaps left by people off sick with Covid means that you have people who are normally on different teams, and living all over the Midlands, mixing together.

On my section the social distancing and hygiene is fairly good, though in other parts of the factory people have to work close together due to the nature of the job. In spite of these measures though, people are still catching Covid – even the office-based managers.

They’re so desperate to keep us coming in that we’ve been given letters to say that we’re keyworkers in case the police stop us while we’re travelling to work. We’ve been given tests, but then told to go back to work before we know if the result is positive or not!

When people do have to isolate, they still receive their basic pay. But this doesn’t take account of the shift allowances they’d normally receive on top of that as part of their salary.

It’s capitalism that’s making the bosses want to keep the factory running. But honestly, no amount of money is worth me or my 80 year old mum catching Covid.

Right now a lot of us are scared. Lockdown should mean lockdown.”

The Socialist Party calls for workers to have democratic control over Covid-related (and all other) health and safety measures in their workplace, including the right to suspend non-essential work without loss of pay if it is not possible for them to work safely while Covid remains at large. Read more in our Worker’s Charter

Heartlands Hospital porters to strike again- stand firm and beat the bosses!

After 48 hours of strike action on 30th October the porters are walking out for another two days on 23rd November.

Despotic management at the University Hospitals Birmingham trust (UHB) are determined to bulldoze ahead with their plans to wreck the work/life balance of the porters at Heartlands by imposing a brutal rotating shift system. The porters organised in the union Unison are having none of it and are fighting back. Birmingham Socialist Party supports the porters 100%.

In the meantime the trust’s chair, former Blairite Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, is trying to make a name for herself as a Z list celebrity, unsuccessfully competing in TV’s Strictly Come Dancing.

She was one of the many MPs embroiled in the MP’s expenses scandal back in 2009. She designated her sister’s house in London, which she shared, as her main home which allowed her to trouser £116,000 in additional allowances for her actual family home in Redditch which she claimed was her ‘second’ home.

Just look at how working class people are treated in this society: the porters who were recently described as ‘key workers’ and ‘heroes’ by the politicians work around the clock for little above the minimum wage yet they are the ones who find themselves under attack from hard-nosed bosses who want to squeeze every last drop of work out of them.

But it’s a different story for Jacqui who is once again coining it– she’s now on £50,000 for just 2.5 days a week at the trust.

Under socialism there will be no fat cat bosses on six figure salaries ‘running’ our NHS. With workers’ control and management of society all supervisors and managers will be elected and bosses on bloated salaries, many times higher than workers on the shop floor, will be a thing of the past.

Without layer upon layer of unnecessary managers and bureaucracy created by the currently fragmented and semi-privatised organisation there will be more resources for patient care and for NHS workers to receive a significant pay rise and enjoy a shorter working week without loss of pay.

If you agree with us that capitalism doesn’t offer working class people a future, and that to protect jobs and public services we need to change society and fight for socialism you should join us.

We say:

  • Support the Heartlands porters
  • Defend work/life balance, no changes to rotas without agreement
  • Fully fund the NHS- fight for an immediate 15% pay rise for all NHS workers, fill the thousands of vacant posts
  • Scrap NHS trusts- for a fully integrated, publicly owned NHS

Birmingham Socialist Party Heartlands Hospital workplace bulletin #2

Solidarity with Polish women- defend reproductive rights!

Lots of interest in the Socialist Party campaign stall at the Polish defend women’s rights demo (photo by Brum SP)

On 1 November, 600 people, mainly Polish women and their allies, gathered in Birmingham for ‘Piekło Kobiet (Women’s Hell) Polish Women on Strike’, to protest in solidary with women in Poland fighting for their reproductive rights. 

Right from the start, protesters vented their anger at the Polish government, chanting in both Polish and English. The Socialist Party’s solidarity was well received, and we were the only political group giving out leaflets (partially in Polish) displaying our key demands, many of which were accepted with enthusiasm. 

A member of our branch spoke in solidarity on the party’s behalf to the crowd, and stated our demands for free public healthcare, including safe abortions, as well as our fight for the right to make this choice free from poverty. Again, we were the only political group to speak, and this call for justice for the women of Poland was met with further chanting and gestures of solidarity. 

Mia Wroe, Birmingham Socialist Party

Below is the flyer that we distributed on the demo.

#endSARS protest- Solidarity with the Nigerian people

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Protesters in Victoria Square angry at brutal killings by police in Nigeria (photo by Brum SP)

On Saturday 24th October Birmingham Socialists supported a passionate and lively vigil and protest against the brutal killings of peaceful protesters in Lagos, Nigeria.

The organisers of the protest against Nigeria’s notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police units emphasised that the event was to be peaceful, with no “attacks on anybody’s character”. However, when the mic was opened, the anger burst out. 

One after another, Nigerian workers vented their rage at the brutality of the Nigerian state but many also highlighted the daily struggles and precarious situation faced by many Nigerian workers in Britain. The crowd of 200 demanded the violent and militarised Sars police unit be disbanded, and loudly sang ‘Solidarity Forever’.

Ted, one of our members, spoke from the platform to deliver a message of solidarity on behalf of the Socialist Party, warmly welcomed by the crowd. He said it was a disgrace that the Nigeria government is failing to provide the very basics of life for the majority, given the immense natural resources and human talent posessed by Nigeria and that socialist measures are needed to be taken to take society forward in Nigeria.

A spontaneous chant of “Buhari out” began after he demanded the resignation of President Mohammadu Buhari.

Hundreds of copies of our flyer which was prepared by our comrades in our sister party in Nigeria, Democratic Socialist Movement, was distributed among the crowd.

Heartlands Hospital porters’ 48-hour strike against shift changes

A striking Heartlands porter (photo by Birmingham Socialist Party)

Porters at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham struck for 48 hours on 30-31 October, in opposition to enforced shift changes where trust bosses want ‘flexible working’ at the expense of workers’ pay, health and work/life balance.

Showing how management do not need to dictate shifts, the workers’ own rota kept the upbeat pickets well staffed from 6am until late across the two days. Many car, bus and ambulance drivers honked their support.

Heartlands is now part of the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Trust, which is chaired by Blairite ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who has prioritised appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. But the low-paid porters are refusing to dance to her tune.

Currently, the Heartlands porters work on a fixed shift system – same times and days each week – but UHB bosses are taking a one-size-fits-all approach in trying to plough through rota changes, so they match those already made at the trust’s Queen Elizabeth hospital. But what right do the bosses have to rip up longstanding agreements and make changes with no regard for the health and safety of the porters? 

Night-shift porters would now have to do more day shifts, resulting in big pay cuts. The porters could also be asked to work at any of the trusts’ four hospitals. The changes would mess up childcare arrangements too. One picket pointed out that the proposed rota would result in him not being able to see his young child for over a week. Another worker said how the bosses’ ‘consultation’ on the changes had been just a familiar box ticking effort.

UHB bosses sent Queen Elizabeth porters to Heartlands to try and limit the effect of the strike, but with limited success as they did not know the layout or systems in place. UHB also emailed the trust’s auxiliary healthcare assistants asking if anyone was available for shifts “to assist with patient transfers”.

Workers should have a say in how their shifts are allocated, so detrimental changes cannot be enforced. The NHS needs adequate funding so there is enough staff to sufficiently cover days and nights. Porters recognise there are problems within the NHS, however they are not due to the staff or current shift patterns, but to lack of investment and mismanagement. Many porters have problems with their passes as they don’t allow access for all the areas they need in order to do their job!

Further negotiations with the porters’ union Unison are set to follow the strike, with another walkout likely if management still refuses to back down. Unison needs to send reps to the other three UHB hospitals – Queen Elizabeth, Good Hope and Solihull – to call for all hospital workers not to undermine the official dispute. In addition, the union should arrange meetings with other health unions, particularly Unite, to build support for the action.

Birmingham Socialist Party says:

BUILD ON THE SUCCESSFUL OCTOBER STRIKE DAYS- ESCALATE THE ACTION UNTIL MANAGEMENT BACK DOWN!

MINIMISE STRIKEBREAKING – BUILD SOLIDARITY WITH PORTERS AND OTHER GRADES FROM THE OTHER UHB SITES WHO ARE BEING USED BY MANAGEMENT TO ATTEMPT TO BREAK THE STRIKE

Below is the flyer we distributed to pickets and other Heartlands Hospital workers when we visited the picket line: