Angry bin workers enter fifth week of strike action

 

Clive Walder, Birmingham Socialist Party

Birmingham bin workers, members of Unite the Union, feel angry that the Labour council has forced them into a fifth week of industrial action to defend jobs, pay and the safety-critical member of the bin wagon crew.

But as their action bites they feel determined to stick it out until victory. They want to get back to collecting Birmingham‘s rubbish but not on the council’s shoddy terms. Workers are furious with council financial mismanagement of the service.

digbeth picket

Pickets at Digbeth Depot

Solidarity action must be stepped up. The Socialist Party believes that all local government unions should hold workplace meetings to explain the dispute and the wider consequences should the bin workers be defeated. This can be followed up with bucket collections on the next payday.

In Small Heath, a community group have started their own rubbish collections. It’s unlikely a small group of volunteers could make a difference to the level of uncollected rubbish but it is significant that the council has taken no action. They may think it undermines the strike, but workers are concerned that these volunteers have not been trained to collect rubbish or meet health and safety standards.

sorry we missed your bins placard

Placards at Perry Barr

Some workers wonder whether the council is digging in for a long dispute, but the truth is that they have been put through this five week disgrace by council officers and senior councillors. Most councillors will be unaware of most of the issues, and it is time they were lobbied and had things explained to them.

It has been rumoured that some Birmingham Labour MPs have been pressuring the workers to compromise rather than demanding the council withdraw the job losses and downgrading.

A local Communication Workers Union branch passed a motion of support moved by a Socialist Party member and also agreed to write to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to remind Labour councillors that they should not attack their own workers.

Labour

Many feel that these Labour councillors should not be allowed to stand as Labour candidates at next year’s election. Labour Party members should challenge councillors who are not supporting the bin workers.

Unite has made it clear that they will back the workers financially and industrially for as long as it takes and a hardship fund is in the process of being established.

Dave Pitt addressing Pickets

Fire Brigades Union West Midlands Chair Dave Pitt bringing solidarity from fire fighters and a donation to the strike fund

Socialist Party members have been visiting the picket lines at all four depots regularly and are warmly welcomed by the strikers. Four bin worker bulletins have already been produced and been well received with many workers reading them on the picket line immediately.

On the ‘Support the Brum Bin Strike’ Facebook page‘ one worker is quoted: “We’ve been bending over backwards for these lot for eight years now, but you can only kick a dog for so long before it turns round and bites you. This is what’s happening right now”.

It is vital that solidarity is built as this dispute could drag on. All readers of the Socialist should pass motions of support and send donations from union branches and other organisations.

  • Please send messages of support to Howard.Beckett@unitetheunion.org and donations can be sent to Unite the Union, 9-17 Victoria Street, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B70 8HX

 

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Victory for RMT members at London Midland

rmt-safe-trains

The following report was written by an RMT member:

Train guards have faced down bosses at London Midland in a dispute over the use of outsourced security guards on trains.

Managers had failed to reach agreement with RMT reps over the introduction of security guards, eventually deciding to introduce them regardless. 

Safety and security on trains is a major issue for rail workers however these security contractors are poorly trained and non-unionised agency workers who enjoy none of the hard-won benefits of working for a train operating company such as free travel, final salary pension etc. Casualisation and outsourcing of work is recommended in New Labour’s McNulty report which is the blueprint for the present day attacks on rail jobs and conditions.

This left the union with no choice but to ballot its membership for strike action. In the run up to this management pumped out propaganda in emails and newsletters explaining that safety and security was its number one priority, trying to justify its use of the contractors.

From the day the ballot papers arrived at members’ homes management cancelled all paid release for RMT guard reps- they were playing hardball.

Then on Monday 30th January management suddenly announced that following discussions with staff at the depots they had listened to their concerns and decided to remove all security guards from trains with immediate effect.

This once again proves the value of being prepared to strike in defence of jobs and conditions. In this case the mere threat of action was enough to force the bosses into a U-turn.

This willingness to fight  will be vital in the upcoming battle against Driver Only Operation on London Midland.

 

PUBLIC MEETING: How can Jeremy Corbyn consolidate his victory? WIll the right wing split?

Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn has been triumphantly re-elected with an even bigger majority in all sections of the Labour Party.
We in the Socialist Party warmly welcome the result and support Jeremy in his struggle to change the Labour Party.
The urgent  question now is how to neutralise the Blairite and careerist Labour MPs and councillors who will never accept Jeremy’s leadership and will try to derail Jeremy’s efforts to transform and re-energise the party.
Join us next Monday evening to discuss the situation and hear the Socialist Party’s programme to consolidate the election victory and furthermore to bring about a socialist society.
 
7.30pm Monday 3rd October
The Wellington (top floor meeting room)
37 Bennett’s Hill, city centre B2 5SN
Speaker: Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary and former Labour NEC member 
call/text 0744 742 5494/0784 931 8609
Facebook event here
 
 

A reply to South Birmingham Momentum

Corbyn

Momentum South Birmingham published an article on their blog on 24th August attacking the Socialist Party, focusing in particular on a recent interview by Channel 4 News of our general secretary, Peter Taaffe.

We have responded and look forward to Momentum South Birmingham posting our reply in order to take the debate forward. 

Below is our response followed by the article in question:

It was very disappointing to read on a Momentum page the article headed “Tom Watson’s Trots and Peter Taaffe’s delusions of grandeur”. This hardly appears to be the promotion of ‘nicer politics’.

Putting disappointment to one side, what does the article argue?

Firstly it’s author –named ‘JC’- argues disingenuously that (Trotskyists) ‘have publicly refused to join the Labour Party’. But that’s not what Peter Taaffe said is it? In fact the article goes on to accuse Taaffe of endangering Jeremy Corbyn by saying he expected to be back in the Labour Party. ‘JC’ cannot have it both ways!

In fact the Socialist Party has given clear support to Jeremy Corbyn. It moved policy in the CWU that secured that unions support for Jeremy. In UNITE they won support for democratic measures including reselection of MP’s.

In the event of Jeremy’s re-election we have called for consolidation of that victory by creating a fully democratic and socialist Labour Party and made clear we would like to affiliate to such a party.

Currently socialists who have publicly and electorally challenged the Blairites over 20 years are being told they must abandon their colleagues and associations –and presumably ideas- to join only as individuals – this while the old machine still rules undemocratically leaving no clue as to whether the machine will allow them to join anyway.

More’s the point Militant supporters were expelled from (New) Labour. They did not run away from it.

Once the Marxist left ceased to be merely workhorses for MP’s and councillors and over time became officers, councillors and MP’s (who, like Dave Nellist -and embarrassingly for right wing MP’s- found they could live quite happily on just a workers wage!) the right wing sought to drive them out of the Labour Party.

For the crime of fighting Maggie Thatcher in Liverpool many councillors were expelled (despite winning the best electoral results in Liverpool’s history). It was an expellable offence to be an organiser of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation campaign that defeated Mrs Thatcher and sank her.

The right wing went on to abandon the socialist Clause 4 part 4 of Labour’s constitution and transformed into a Tory-lite party that has seen Labour lose 5 million votes and create many policies such as privatisation, PFI, academies etc on which the Tories have gleefully built upon. It was no accident that when asked what her greatest achievement was Mrs Thatcher said “New Labour”.

The second charge is that Peter Taaffe by appearing on TV damaged Jeremy’s re-election bid by being part of a red scare story. But Jeremy himself said Watsons comments were nonsense. He said he’d look forward to a chat with Peter Taaffe. Why then, on Momentums pages, is this derogatory piece repeating the use of “Trot” as an insult? To do so is to play the media’s game. We would point out that Jeremy did move in Parliament for Trotsky to be rehabilitated.

‘JC’ says; “He (Taaffe) knew the effect that these words would have,…the awkward position it would put the leadership team. It would be yet another round of bad headlines to fend off”. JC suggests Taaffe did it ‘to sell a few more papers’ and then clearly implies that Taaffe would be happier if Jeremy lost.

Can we be clear? We –alongside colleagues including Bob Crow and the Rail Union RMT and others – believed that with New Labour being a Tory second XI, working people needed a new party to stand up for them, and we worked to establish the roots for one. Now with the possibility of the transformation of Labour, true working class representation could be achieved without having to start from square one and WE WELCOME and seek to aid that possibility.

Of course the rabid media sought to use the Socialist Party to attack Jeremy Corbyn. But they use Rail journeys to attack him too. Should Jeremy be condemned for travelling by train?

What were the Socialist Party who were bureaucratically expelled from the Labour Party for fighting the Tories supposed to say? ‘No Comment’? We won’t appear or speak?

Would that have called the media hyena’s off? No of course it wouldn’t. It would have intensified the media attacks on socialists and on Jeremy. It would have been tantamount to saying ‘We know we’re villains, so we’re lying low’. Socialists must answer the attacks made by Britain’s elite, not hide when attacked.

But what is ‘JC’ really arguing? That Marxists, ‘Trots’ etc should not be allowed in the Labour Party? That Kinnock’s and Blair’s expulsions were right? That if anti-austerity Greens wanted to join Labour that that would be embarrassing or ‘awkward’? All this to placate –and without any success- a right wing determined to destroy Jeremy’s leadership?

Is ‘JC’ arguing that smaller political organisations should not be allowed to affiliate to and support Labour under Jeremy’s leadership? Other organisations already do.

Finally there is one other issue we’d like to answer. Intentionally or not, ‘JC’s article could be read by some as saying Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership could be the cause of a split in Labour. The left must strongly and clearly explain that any split in Labour will not be the work of Jeremy Corbyn -or the Socialist Party- but of the right wing who want to both defend the free market economy and to preserve their careers.

To do this they have been happy to damage Labour’s prospects of beating the Tories. Working people deserve better, a party that offers complete change and a new society, and we must be resolute, not afraid in pursuing that.

To ‘JC’ we ask please concentrate determined fire on the Blairite right wing, not on socialists.

Birmingham Socialist Party

 

‘Tom Watson’s Trots and Peter Taaffe’s delusions of grandeur’

The red-baiting, McCarthyite “Trotskyist infiltration” (non-) story has probably been one of the low points of this leadership election so far, and considering the apparently limitless willingness of our party’s bureaucracy to subvert this contest and exclude as many people as possible, that is saying something. It’s little more than a surprisingly amateurishly executed pound-shop Zinoviev Letter and has also had the unfortunate effect of bringing the lamentable and unendurably smug Michael Crick back into the limelight for another five minutes of fame and a few book sales.

The idea that the Trotskyist left, which I suspect numbers less than a thousand active members in the UK and whose two “largest” groups have publicly refused to join the Labour Party (and the evidence I see before my eyes in Birmingham is that they are keeping that promise, much as they find it enormously frustrating) is patently ludicrous. The party membership has tripled in the last twelve months. It is a conspiracy theory propagated by people who know it to be a lie, and it is all the more loathsome for its brazen dishonesty.

The usually sure-footed Tom Watson, source of this nonsense, has not covered himself in glory at all these last couple of weeks. People will not forget this. He has disgraced himself and his office.

We knew the right would throw everything they could at Corbyn. It was always going to be a dirty election and it has delivered. The stakes are high and we are dealing with people with no scruples.

But rather more surprisingly, former Militant Tendency (now uninspiringly called the Socialist Party, a major drop down in the left group naming stakes) godfather, Peter Taaffe, still going strong at 73, has got himself a few cheap headlines by telling anyone who will listen that he expects to be re-admitted to the party if Corbyn is re-elected.

Normally I would just dismiss this as a bit of mischievous, albeit slightly embarrassing publicity seeking by a man whose best days are long behind him. But there is a serious point here and it does him and his organisation no credit.

He is no fool. He knew the effect that these words would have, the effect it would have on Corbyn and the awkward position it would put the leadership team. It would be yet another round of bad headlines to fend off, would cement in the minds of a few waverers that Corbyn’s leadership would inevitably split the party, and give credence to Watson’s nauseating tosh.

So why do it? Why make the job of a man and movement you claim to support that much harder? Are a couple of days of headlines, a handful of extra recruits, a few more papers sold, website clicks and maybe the chance to relive the glory years, when the Militant actually meant something and was able to impact on British politics, really worth it?

If Corbyn loses, and let’s not pretend this is a done deal, and this story can be in anyway seen as a turning point, would it have been worth it then? And would it help to prove that the hundreds of thousands of people who joined the Labour Party in the hope of a better world were wrong all along and that we could never try and make the Labour Party a mass movement for democratic socialism, and that “comrade” Taaffe was right all along? Was that his goal?

And if not, what on earth was he thinking?

JC

 

AFTER THE REFERENDUM: STOP THE BLAIRITE COUP – DEFEND CORBYN AND KICK OUT THE TORIES!

BIRMINGHAM SOCIALIST PARTY PUBLIC MEETING 

The knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn, the Blairites are seizing their opportunity to get rid of the democratically elected left wing leader of the Labour Party. 

Join us to discuss how we can defend Jeremy, bring down the Tories and bring about socialist change in Britain.

SPEAKER: DAVE NELLIST (FORMER LABOUR MP, A FRIEND OF CORBYN)

ALL WELCOME, ENTRY FREE

 7.30PM MONDAY 4 JULY

TOP FLOOR MEETING ROOM

THE WELLINGTON

37 BENNETTS HILL

CITY CENTRE

phone/text 0794 100 3037

NHS:  450 more jobs to go

West Mids job cuts more evidence of Tory undermining of our NHS

450 NHS jobs are to be axed, in just one of our NHS Trusts!

Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals NHS Trust –which runs the Sandwell and the City hospitals – announced the jobs axe that will affect not only the staff involved, but also over half a million people the hospitals serve.

Is it because we don’t need these NHS staff anymore?  No, demand for services and the population of the area is growing.

The cuts are because the hospitals are ‘in debt’ according to the market-ised NHS invented by Tony Blair’s New Labour and enthusiastically pursued by this Tory government.  The truth is our NHS is being underfunded – ie given too few funds and then it is claimed it is in debt.

Another financial pressure on the NHS Trust is the PFI (Private Finance Initiative, better known as ‘Profits From Illness’) scheme to build a new Birmingham Met hospital to replace substantial parts of 2 local hospitals. The price of this private scheme has soared from £353million to £588 million recently.

It is a disgrace that the trust is making staff cuts, making workers lose their jobs, in order to satisfy private firms shareholders.

Staff cuts are dangerous 

The chief executive of one of England’s biggest trusts, speaking anonymously, said the drive to reduce staff numbers was reckless and counterproductive. “What they don’t seem to appreciate is that it’s a hands-on business and you need the hands on. The reality is that there isn’t enough money going into the NHS for it to do its job properly.”

The Francis report into the Mid Staffs hospital scandal revealed that staffing levels must be increased. Even hospital bosses- worry that reducing staff will hit quality of care and patient safety while increasing waiting times

The government claim they have increased NHS funding, but the truth is they are forcing £22 million of ‘efficiency’ savings ie cuts. Hospitals are being told to shed nurses and other frontline medical staff to rescue the NHS from an acute funding crisis created by the government itself.

This helps those who oppose the NHS, but dare not openly attack it because it is popular amongst working people. It allows them to suggest that the NHS is failing and to then propose their beloved privatisation ie making profits from illness for the companies many of them represent.

A West Midlands midwife says:

“The NHS is purposefully being mismanaged into the ground, so that the Tories can claim the only way to fix it is to privatise it. Do not allow your health, or your sickness, to become a profitable commodity. Stand with the Socialist Party and fight for your NHS – it is the last tenable link we have to a state that values well-being over profit.”

Resist the job cuts – SAVE OUR NHS