Homecare Workers – United And Strong To Defend Their Service

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Lobbying a meeting of Birmingham City Council last week

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.

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Socialist Party members supporting the picket in Erdington

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’

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On the picket at Woodcock Street

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!”

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Just part of the picket at Lancaster Circus

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.

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Getting support from passing drivers at Lifford House

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!

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Home Care Workers Back On Strike

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.

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Home Care workers picket in Erdington

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!

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Brum Opposes Trump!

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.

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The protest in Victoria Square

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.

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The anti-Trump wall

 

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.

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Just some of the socialist contingent at the demo

Housing Workers Strike Against Pay Robbery

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On the picket line outside the HCA office on Colmore Row

Workers and members of Unite the union have successfully balloted and started strike action at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) across multiple sites in the country. We at the Socialist Party here in Birmingham visited and supported the local picket line at the Colmore Row office in the city centre.

 

Unite members are on strike in protest at years of real-terms pay cuts and pay inequality. Broken down the main grievances expressed by the membership are…

• 2 years frozen pay, increases capped for 8 years at 1%, while inflation is over 3%

• Gender pay disparity

• Discriminatory pay setting practices

• No pay progression mechanism

• AND STILL NO PAY NEGOTIATIONS!

 

Any one of these issues on their own is enough to start organising in the workplace but with several attacks on workers’ pay and conditions it’s absolutely justified and vitally necessary to take direct action to fight back and pressure management in overturning all these appalling attacks HCA workers have had to deal with for so long.

 

However management have expressed very clearly they have no desire in rectifying these issues. Unite reps described management’s behaviour as a disgrace. Instead of listening to members’ concerns, they turned up to pay meetings with no interest in resolving the dispute, and the CEO hasn’t turned up to any of the emergency pay meetings.

 

Anyone who has had the misfortune to experience similar issues in their workplace will know going on strike is the last choice as it puts workers in a precarious situation and at risk when thinking of living costs of housing, transport, family dependants and a society where so many workers live pay check to pay check. However when managers completely stonewall union reps from serious negotiations and collective bargaining workers must be prepared to stand up for their rights and say enough is enough!

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Leaflet distributed by striking Unite members

To rub insult into injury management consultants are on inflated fees, but the rest don’t even get pay rises covering the cost of inflation. All while staff are struggling financially, especially for female members of staff who are doubly attacked with a gender pay gap existing within the workplace as outlined in a report produced by HCA themselves! The employer is happy to identify pay discrimination but do nothing about it, shame on them.

 

However despite all this spirits were high and socialist party members received a warm welcome to join and support the picket line by handing out strike materials and talking to workers as they went into the office building where HCA is based and having conversations with members of the public passing by with great amounts of sympathy and support being expressed.

 

Despite being the biggest union recognised in HCA, Unite is not the only union representing workers in HCA as there is also PCS who are currently deciding / taking a ballot whether to join the strike but have expressed fraternal support. We at the Socialist Party urge PCS members to vote yes for strike action and join shoulder to shoulder with Unite members to increase strength in numbers and combat all the same attacks ALL HCA staff are dealing with.

 

Even though we want the management to see sense and re-open and have serious negotiations with Unite reps we at the Socialist party are fully prepared to back striking HCA workers to the hilt and offer all practical, political and industrial support as needs be to see all these attacks reversed and consigned to the dustbin of history.

Midland Met Hospital Fiasco – Scrap PFI Now!

On Thursday 5th July, nearly 100 local residents and trade unionists came out to celebrate the 70th anniversary of The NHS being founded by protesting outside the half-built Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick.

 

The hospital was planned to replace both Sandwell and City Hospitals, meaning fewer beds and health workers covering West Birmingham and Sandwell. The £350m PFI (Private Finance Initiative) contract to build and manage the hospital was handed to Carillion, who went bust earlier this year.

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The unfinished Midland Metropolitan Hospital

The result was construction workers being laid off overnight as work was paused on a hospital that was originally scheduled to open later this year. It’s now expected that it won’t be completed until at least 2022, with medium to long term planning of services left in limbo.

 

As speakers at the protest pointed out, when the prestige Paradise office and retail development in Birmingham City Centre hit the buffers in the wake of Carillion’s bankruptcy, a new contractor for the building works was found. If that’s doable for a project that will help big businesses in the city, why not for services used by local residents?

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On the protest

It’s welcome that Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to scrap PFI contracts if Labour is elected. To truly end the rip off and make the money available for spending on frontline services, this should be done without compensation to large shareholders. Labour councils, such as those in Birmingham and Sandwell, should act now and use their supervisory powers over local NHS trusts to halt and reverse privatisation plans, so we can return the NHS to the publicly owned and publicly run service that it was when it was founded.

Birmingham Teachers Go On Strike Over Forced Academisation!

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Teachers, students and supporters on strike outside Springfield School, Birmingham 

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!

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Teachers at the picket at Springfield School, Birmingham

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.

To get involved email birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com!

Thank You To TUSC Voters From Birmingham Socialist Party!

Birmingham TUSC Candidates
Birmingham TUSC candidates

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.

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Dave Nellist speaking at the Birmingham Socialist Party public meeting on the Council elections

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.

To get involved email birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com!