Pregnant Then Screwed

On Saturday 29th, protests organised by the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign took place across Britain against the astronomical cost of childcare. Socialist Party members joined the protest in Birmingham – here’s our report:

Every week, I see posts in an online group of women, who are being let go from their job after falling pregnant, given reduced hours without consultation, or forced to work full-time while being the main carer of a young child. The trade unions must fight on these issues.

I attended from Northampton, with a friend who is a single parent of a daughter under two. She told me she would love to return to work, but childcare costs are too much. She plans to wait for her daughter to turn three, when she can benefit from 15 hours free childcare.

For me to do the same, I would have to reapply for my job. There is no guarantee it would still be available, or that my hours could be flexible around childcare needs.

The March of the Mummies demanded investment in childcare, but the parents on the demonstration were making the case that childcare should be free, and that these services need to be taken back in house.

Katie Simpson

Many of the protesters had not been to a protest before, but their accumulated anger about the cost of living and more, has forced them onto the streets.

Labour MP Steve McCabe addressed the crowd. But has criticised the Birmingham homecare workers when they were on strike to defend their jobs and pay in 2019.

Sombrely, he said that a Labour government would inherit the Tories’ mess and have to be ‘practical’. This is same line pushed by Keir Starmer, that under a Labour government renationalisation of industries is ‘not ‘realistic’, and austerity will be used to bill the working class for Covid and the economic downturn.

There are 250 billionaires in the UK.  We need a new mass workers’ party and coordinated strike action to fight for the redistribution of this wealth, so it can be invested back into society, creating free, quality childcare, where staff are paid at least £15 an hour.

Corinthia Ward

Summer Strike Wave Spreads! Time to Unite the Strikes

The summer strikes are hotting up as workers hit back against the cost-of-living squeeze.

Alongside the growing number of localised disputes, transport workers in the RMT, Aslef, TSSA and Unite are stepping up their national struggle in a week of strike action. The CWU is organising national strike action by its members across Royal Mail, BT and the Post Office over six days. On 31 August, 155,000 CWU members will walk out together in Royal Mail and BT.

There will be pickets at Royal Mail offices across Birmingham – to find your local one to go and show support, head here:

Disputes are blowing up on a weekly basis, many of them resulting in significant gains. Nearly 2,000 dockers at Felixstowe are about to strike – the port through which almost half of the UK’s containers are transported. On 10 August, thousands of construction workers under the NAECI agreement, working as contractors at sites such as oil refineries and power stations, walked out taking unofficial action to demand the pay rise they need and deserve.

On top of these, public sector unions are preparing for national strike ballots in the autumn.

All of this represents a step change in the level of action. The unions are becoming a pole of attraction to working-class people, desperate to keep a roof over their heads, worried how they’ll keep the lights and heating on in the winter. With the abject role of Keir Starmer and his New Labour Party, this is even more the case.

No wonder that thousands of non-unionised Amazon workers joined the strike wave and walked off the job when one of the biggest companies in the world ‘offered’ them the insult of a pay rise between 35p and 50p per hour! This predominately young workforce of up to 75,000 are learning the reality that workers are more powerful if they are organised in the trade union movement, taking action together.

And that is the case for all workers, particularly the six and a half million already in the unions. On picket line after picket line, workers agree with the idea of striking together. They know that the Tories are in crisis and on the ropes, but the knockout punch has to be delivered.

With workers from nearly every sector and trade union moving into action to defend our livelihoods against the cost of living crisis, there’s an urgent need to link up all the different strikes taking place.

That’s why on Sunday 11th September the National Shop Stewards Network is organising a lobby of the Trade Union Congress to call on the leaders of the union movement to call co-ordinated action so that we can strike together and force the bosses back.

It’s taking place in Brighton, and trade unionists from across the West Midlands are heading down on a free coach that’s been organised to allow as many local trade unionists as possible to attend.

It’s scheduled to depart by outside TK Maxx in Birmingham city centre at 8:30am and return for 7:30pm that evening, and as well as being an important event for applying pressure on the leaders of our movement, it should also be a great day out.

Seats are filling up fast – to book yours, email westmidsshopstewards@gmail.com

Dea-John’s Family Fight For Justice

Socialist Party members from Birmingham and the Black Country marched with hundreds of others through Kingstanding in north Birmingham on 9 July, in solidarity with the campaign for justice for Dea-John Reid.

Dea-John Reid, a black 14-year-old was murdered in May 2021. He was chased by an all-white group – three teenagers and two adults – some in balaclavas, armed with a spanner and large kitchen knife.

Witnesses said the group moved like a pack, chasing down their prey. This was captured on CCTV.

One of the adults shouted racist abuse, telling the teenagers to kill Dea-John. Yet the jury only convicted the teenager with the knife – and of manslaughter, not murder. He was sentenced to six years.

Why were the accomplices cleared? Why were they not convicted of joint enterprise?

A 2016 survey showed over half of those convicted under joint enterprise were black, even though black people make up just 4% of the population in Britain. Dea-John’s family has said the lack of diversity in the jury – 11 white and 1 Asian – does not reflect Birmingham.

The murder of Dea-John Reid was a racist hate crime. This is yet another racist gross miscarriage of justice.

Hate crime

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says it takes hate crime extremely seriously. We beg to differ.

Under capitalism, justice will never prevail when it comes to race hate crime. The police, CPS and judiciary were built to suppress those who might challenge the capitalist system. The working class, especially black and brown people, have suffered the most.

We don’t need reform. The system is broken.

“You can’t have capitalism without racism” – Malcolm X.

Commonwealth Games: A Legacy of Austerity

The Commonwealth Games opens in Birmingham on 28 July. Not surprisingly, thousands of local people are excited at the prospect of seeing some of the planet’s most talented sportspeople in action. With adult tickets starting from £15, ordinary people will be able to see some live events.

The council has wanted Birmingham to stage a major tournament for decades, and is hoping that this will kickstart an increase in sporting participation of local people. The council’s past record of carrying out Tory cuts will undermine this ambition.

Coincidentally, the cost of the Games is almost identical to the amount of cuts in services Birmingham City Council has made since 2010. The council will need to fight for more resources from the Tories if it wants to increase spending after the Games have left town.

The council has spent £222 million on the Games, including £25 million to make up for a shortfall in funding from external partners. This alone shows the shortcomings of a market-based business model to finance major sporting events.

The council has used £35.7 million of reserves to balance the Games’ finances. The council has always told anti-cuts campaigners that it is illegal to spend reserves to defend services, but apparently it is legal to use them to shore up the finances of a vanity project!

Socialist Party and other anti-cuts campaigners will demand that the council spends reserves to protect services on a regular basis, while fighting the government for the return of money stolen from the city by the Tory government.

All major international sporting events promise to leave a positive legacy. But instead of years of cuts, that money could have sustained grassroots sporting activity and provided a lasting solution to the social problems the Games aims to tackle. Only a massive increase in council spending can achieve this.

The charity established by the Games’ organisers aims to provide money to finance swimming lessons for school pupils that were cut during the pandemic, and to create accessible playgrounds for disabled children.

Unfortunately, this sets a dangerous precedent. Charities are an unreliable source of permanent income for core services.

The Games’ organisers want the facilities to be well used by the community afterwards. This will only happen if they are publicly owned, with a free or minimal admission charge, and the community is involved in their management.

There is no evidence of a long-term legacy for the host cities of similar events, and there is no reason to assume that these Games will provide one. They temporarily boost the status of local politicians, but better economic and social outcomes generally flow from improvements in core public services and investment in people.

The Games have been a catalyst for investment in a deprived area of Birmingham, and the community will see improved public transport and housing. Unfortunately, only 312 of the 968 homes in the athletes’ village are designated as ‘affordable’. The Socialist Party demands that all housing built on this site should be either genuinely affordable, as decided democratically by a body of housing workers, councillors and trade unionists.

Real problems

The council’s superficial approach to solving people’s’ problems is typified by some of the trite road names in the redevelopment area: Diversity Grove, Equality Road and Destiny Road. The people who live near the main stadium have real problems, which have been made worse by the council’s refusal to fight Tory cuts.

Local people will enjoy visiting the Games. But they will also be aware that afterwards their problems will remain until fighting councillors and MPs are elected, who will campaign for the return of Birmingham’s stolen millions to enable local services to be rebuilt and to give people a future.

School Staff Strike Back

Teachers and staff are striking over five days at a Birmingham girls’ school. The walkout at Lordswood Girls School and Sixth Form Centre in Harborne started on 12 July over a row that centred on the “forced transfer of employment of our teacher and support staff members to the King Edward VI Academy Trust”, among other grievances.

The National Education Union (NEU) claims there has been a “lack of meaningful consultation” between school bosses and teachers over changes that will come into force on 1 September 2022. The strike action is also a result of what are seen as unacceptable management practices at the school that have resulted in a high turnover of staff.

On the first day of the strike, around fifty people, including members of Birmingham Socialist Party, turned up on the picket line to show their support. Strike action continues on the 19 and 20 July.

Standing Up For The Working Class

On Thursday 5th May, the whole of Birmingham City Council will be up for re-election for the first time in four years. Since then, over £150m more has been cut from local services by the Labour council – with another £40m coming in the next 12 months.

Birmingham’s Labour Council has cut over £770 million from our services since 2010. They’ve robbed over 13,000 jobs from Birmingham, closed 43 youth centres, 12 nurseries, 21 childrens’ centres, 5 childrens’ homes, 4 libraries and countless community and leisure facilities.

While luxury apartments appear in the city centre, social housing declines elsewhere. The Tory government and Labour council lack the will to tackle dodgy and exploitative landlords – because many MPs, councillors and their families are landlords themselves!

The inaction of all the establishment parties while the cost of living increases daily for working class people shows that we need someone who will stand up for the likes of us – not more pro-austerity councillors in the pocket of big business.

That’s why Socialist Party members will be taking on the red, blue and yellow tories in these elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. We’ll be letting people know they don’t have to waste their vote on the same old establishment parties, and that we can build a political fightback against the attacks on our living standards and public services.

Socialists don’t just want to defend the scraps the government have left us. We fight to stop all cuts but also bring back all the valuable services sold off, closed and abandoned over the years.

Rather than working class people just about managing to scrape by, we fight for an end to the cost of living squeeze, starting with a £15/hr minimum wage, a 15% pay rise in the NHS and care, an end to zero-hour contracts and a 50% increase to pensions.

We’ll be standing in the following wards:

Acocks Green – Eamonn Flynn

Bournbrook & Selly Park – Tom Green

Castle Vale – Kris O’Sullivan

Erdington – Corinthia Ward

Gravelly Hill – Tom Patrick

Kingstanding – Joe Foster

Ladywood – Piriyasha Jeyanayagam

Longbridge & West Heath – Clive Walder

North Edgbaston – William Downs

Perry Common – Siobhan Friel

Pype Hayes – Bill Murray

Sheldon – Mark Andrews

South Yardley – Bob Severn

Stockland Green – Ted Woodley

Can you help us get the message out? We’ll be running regular leafletting and canvassing sessions in the run up to polling day – for more info, get in touch.

Unlike the establishment parties, we don’t have rich backers – can you chip in to help cover the cost of our leaflets? You can donate on this link.

And come to our public meetings to hear more about what a socialist councillor could do to stand up for working class people in Birmingham, and how we’ll be continuing the fightback beyond May 5th:

Longbridge & West Heath

7pm, Monday 25th April

St Anne’s Church Hall

Lilley Ln, Birmingham B31 3JT

Erdington

7pm, Thursday 28th April

The Erdington Club

33 Sutton New Road, Erdington

Young Socialists Meet-Up

3pm, Monday 2nd May
Selly Park
Meet by car park off Raddlebarn Road
B29 7DA

City Centre

7pm, Wednesday 4th May

Top floor, The Wellington

Bennetts Hill B2 5SN

This post and all content on this site relating to the 2022 local elections promoted by Joe Foster at 11 Kerby Road Birmingham B23 7EX on behalf of Birmingham TUSC candidates.

Socialist Former MP Dave Nellist to Stand in Erdington

There’s a by-election coming up in Erdington in Birmingham – and the TUSC – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have announced that socialist former MP Dave Nellist will be standing to put forward an anti-austerity, pro-worker alternative.

Dave, who was the Labour MP for Coventry South East for nine years and later, for 14 years, a Coventry city councillor for the Socialist Party from 1998 to 2012, was well-known during his time in parliament for only taking an ordinary worker’s wage, giving away over half of an MP’s bloated salary – currently £82,000 a year – to trade unionists and working class campaigners fighting to defend their livelihoods and communities.

Like he’s done for many decades inside and outside parliament, Dave and the Birmingham Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition team will be standing to give a voice to the struggles of working class people in Erdington fighting attacks on public services, for decent pay and working conditions and for urgent action to deal with the cost of living crisis.

Accepting the TUSC nomination, Dave commented: “With Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour welcoming a Tory MP into the parliamentary party last week – while confirming Jeremy Corbyn’s exclusion from the PLP at its national executive committee meeting on January 25th – it couldn’t be clearer that the interests of Britain’s wealthy establishment will be in safe hands if and when they decide to move on from Boris Johnson’s disintegrating premiership. Starmer is so obviously not on our side”.

“In contrast, I and the rest of the TUSC coalition wholeheartedly supported Jeremy’s leadership of the Labour Party as an opportunity to put someone in Number Ten who would challenge what he called the ‘rigged system’ – in other words, capitalism – that works in the interests of a rich and powerful minority”.“

So the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, co-founded in 2010 by the late transport workers’ leader Bob Crow, adjusted its electoral activity in response, not standing candidates in either the 2017 or 2019 general elections”.

“But we also warned that the followers of Tony Blair within Labour – like Keir Starmer – didn’t support the socialist policies of taxing the rich and public ownership that are needed to overturn the ‘rigged system’ and that they would drop the Labour manifesto policies of 2017 and 2019 as soon as they had the chance”.

“And so it has come to pass, with Starmer, for example, explicitly ruling out public ownership of the big oil and gas companies even as they boost shareholder dividends from our hiked up energy bills”.“That is why I am proud to represent TUSC in the Birmingham Erdington by-election and would urge other trade unionists, socialists and community campaigners to also consider standing for TUSC in the forthcoming local council elections in May”.

“Red Tories, Blue Tories or Yellow Tories carrying out policies against the interests of the working class majority cannot expect to be unchallenged at the ballot box”.

Come to the campaign launch rally:

12 noon, Saturday 12th February at The Highcroft Centre, 485 Slade Road Stockland Green B23 7JH

For more information on the Erdington by-election campaign and how you can help, head to the campaign website, email tuscbirmingham@gmail.com or call/text 07974493525

This post promoted by Joe Foster at 11 Kerby Road, Birmingham B23 7EX on behalf of Dave Nellist

Birmingham Housing Crisis: Time For A People’s Budget!

The Birmingham Mail recently reported how a family of 2 adults with 3 children, one with ADHD who needs their own bedroom, try to survive in a 3rd floor flat with one bedroom, kitchen, lounge, bathroom surrounded with damp washing. The couple and a child are sleeping sharing a sofa bed with the baby in cot next to it, turning lights out at 7pm to settle the children down.

After 12 months of bidding for properties on Birmingham and other councils’ properties with 100 plus ahead of them in the queue. The council says people have to be “realistic”.

Birmingham City Council’s housing waiting list currently has around 500 applications per week, with just under half deemed eligible to be on the list. It took 6 months for one family to have their claim assessed. The average assessment time for Birmingham is 22 weeks.

The Council’s own report titled Housing Options issued in August 2021 stated that with 60,000 council properties (in 1981 there were 123,000!) there were 18,649 on the register to bid for council homes and 3,700 households in temporary accommodation. Given that the report states there are 80,000 in the private rented sector with an estimated 4,500 currently available, what choice is there?

The council plan to build 2,708 homes by 2029. This is not realistic!

The Trade Unionist Coalition (TUSC) is hosting an open forum for trade unionists, community residents’ groups and anti-cuts campaigners.

Here we will be discussing how we can fight for a budget to fight for that meets the city’s real needs on homes, jobs and public services – a realistic fighting alternative!

The meeting details are

Date: Saturday 27th November

Time:   12 till 2 PM

Venue: Kings Norton Ex-Servicemens Club, 1853a Pershore Road,

Cotteridge, Birmingham B30 3DJ

For more information Call/Text 0797 4493525

Email tuscbirmingham@gmail.com

GKN Strike: All Out For Victory!

ALL OUT FOR VICTORY – FIGHTBACK TO SAVE BIRMINGHAM GKN JOBS!

Rallying outside the plant in July

There have been lots of developments since the vulture-capitalists of Melrose announced at the start of the year that the GKN plant in Erdington, Birmingham is destined to be shut down and shipped abroad in order to exploit workers with lower labour costs and wages and weaker trade unions and labour protection laws. A race to the bottom for all those that actually work for a living and not sitting comfortably in a shareholder’s boardroom.

Generations of highly skilled workers in a profitable plant will be thrown onto the scrapheap for nothing more than the greed of a few compared to the livelihoods of the many. However, the latest and most positive development to take place is the courage of the rank and file members of Unite in the Chester Road GKN workforce to overwhelmingly vote yes to being an all-out strike with 95% of the 500 strong workforce voting yes.

The strike has now been suspended until 18th October following Melrose pausing the removal of machinery and operations from Chester Road. GKN Driveline workers will want to see firm guarantees over the plant remaining open before the strike is called off completely – the threat of action has already brought previously hard-nosed Melrose management to the table. We believe any potential deal should be put to Unite members at GKN for full debate and discussion before being settled.

Strike action like always was the last option to be taken due to the utter stonewalling and contempt that has been shown to the workers who have loyally grafted away for decades during their prime years. But Melrose won’t give five them minutes to hear the detailed alternative plans to save the plant, British automobile manufacturing and working-class communities.

Parliamentary motions, rallies, lobbying and an extremely detailed and innovative 90 page alternative production plan for a green-automotive transition were put forward…all ignored and dismissed by the asset strippers Melrose.

If workers have to flex their industrial muscles through collective industrial action then so be it. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that these key workers’ are the ones who really keep factories and other workplaces running, not investment managers.

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 workers 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 519 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 aren’t raking in some healthy-looking salaries already, Melrose CEO Simon Peckham receiving a pay packet of £976,000 in 2019.

It is the skilled GKN workers that create everything that comes in and out of the factory including all wealth creation in a previously profit-making plant but only receive a fraction of that wealth compared to some of the obscene amounts listed above gifted to Melrose bosses. This is even more of a slap in the face when you consider that the Chester Road plant is situated in Erdington with a climbing unemployment rate of 12.5%.

So it goes without saying this closure will not just be devastating to the workforce but a huge blow to this working-class community as a whole – as we all know when these type of jobs go, they never come back. Birmingham Socialist Party members have seen the immense local community support from the people of Erdington and North Birmingham to keep the plant open when we’ve been campaigning to save GKN plant high street stalls near the factory, with entire working-class communities coming behind the workers!

Frank Duffy, GKN Convenor (right)

As Frank Duffy, Unite convenor at the Chester plant states

‘’Birmingham has been here before. When the massive Rover factory at Longbridge closed in 2005 the impact was felt for years.

Unite’s predecessor union, Amicus, supported research which showed that despite 90% of the workers finding alternative employment, 66% were financially worse off, average incomes fell by more than £6,000 and 25% reported being in debt or being reliant on savings to get by’’

We fully support the alternative production plan drawn up by GKN reps tapping into the decades of on-site experience to both save costs and help kick up a ‘green revolution’ for more sustainable cars and transitioning the sector as whole, echoing the spirit of the 1976 Lucas Plan to convert and retrofit Lucas Aerospace plants for socially beneficial production. Democratic workers’ control and management with all the years of collective experience will be what can save the British automobile industry, not the greed of shareholders hellbent on asset stripping.

The only longterm 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 spark further action across Britain and further afield. It was a Tory government that was compelled to nationalise Rolls-Royce in the 1970s.

It is worth noting also that Sharon Graham, with the support of the Socialist Party, was recently elected Unite General Secretary on a promise to “immediately ramp up the resource required to defend jobs, fight cuts and protect pay”. Now is the time to turn these words into action, with the building of a mass campaign throughout the Birmingham community and further afield, applying pressure on both Melrose and companies involved in the wider supply chain.

Socialist Party members leafletting the plant

PLAN OF ACTION

With the above in mind, we fraternally offer the following suggestions as part of a plan of action to win the dispute:

  • Take all steps possible to stop removal of machinery and unsold inventory from the Chester Road site, up to and including occupation of the plant
  • 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.
  • Mass demonstrations both on site and in the city centre inviting workers and activists from across the entire labour movement and community campaigns to build a far-reaching sustained fightback.

End The Occupation of Kashmir!

A lively demonstration of around 500 Kashmiris from all over the Midlands calling for the removal of all Indian military forces from their land and marking the second anniversary of the removal of Kashmir’s special status by the reactionary Hindu chauvinist Indian government of Narendra Modi took place in Birmingham.


Despite being confronted with enormous military force, the Kashmiri people show no signs of accepting permanent annexation by India and the discrimination that accompanies it. 

It would be a grave mistake to rely on either the equally reactionary anti-worker government of Pakistan for national liberation or the ‘diplomacy’ of the world’s major imperialist powers. US President Biden has delivered a very mild rebuke to the Indian government, which has more to do with defending the US’s geopolitical interests in the Indian sub-continent than the welfare of the Kashmiri masses.

Kashmiri workers and peasants can only rely on their own strength and organisations to achieve national liberation and urgently need to form a party of workers, peasants and poor farmers armed with a socialist programme to take over the land and major industries in the region so that Kashmir can be governed in the interests of the masses.


Socialist Party members joined the protest, distributing copies of this statement written by our sister parties in India and Pakistan at the time of Jammu & Kashmir having its special status removed. The support for the Socialist Party’ polices were reflected in the £37.50 donated and one person expressed an interest in joining the party.