Hundreds of people attended the protest that took place on Friday 13th July in Victoria Square to protest Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. With a mix of all ages and backgrounds, there were students, workers and trade unionists present.
Birmingham Socialist Students and Birmingham Young Socialists took a leading role in the protest, engaging with young people at the 12pm walk out and protest and getting great responses. People were encouraged to write down their reasons for protesting or walking out on posters which were made into an anti-Trump wall, with contributions from many people, who recognised both Trumps words and actions as damaging to working class people.
Many times when asked to pick a reason they were protesting Trump people responded with “where do I start?”, showing just how strongly people oppose Trump and his policies, also reflected in the numbers who turned out to the lively 5pm protest. Although other left groups were present, we were the only group putting forward class politics on the day and calling for an end to not just the Trump presidency, but also to the Tory government who welcomed him here. Our stall received a great response of support from protesters and passers by who identified with our message of opposition to the racism and sexism of Trump and his party and the fight to improve the lives of the working class in both the US and the UK.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
Congratulations on becoming a firefighter – now go and pick up a hospital patient and cross your fingers that no one needs a fire put out while you’re at it.’ That is the future planned for firefighters by the Labour-led West Midlands Fire Authority, but a future that won’t be accepted by firefighters and emergency control operators, who are now balloting for strike action.
The planned contracts would mean new firefighters having to take on non-fire service duties – like those you’d expect NHS workers to be employed to do. In fact, it’s already happening – loss-making ‘care contacts’ signed by the Fire Authority have already taken fire staff and engines off front line duties.
These changes come under an anti-union, bullying management that are also introducing flexible working – that’s flexible for the bosses of course, changing working hours on short notice. Dial-a-firefighter: the gig economy for trained emergency staff, implemented by a Labour-led Fire Authority which is also suspending employees for union campaigning. No wonder FBU union members have had enough!
On 30 April, the day before balloting began, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack spoke to many union members at meetings in Solihull and Dudley. Socialist Party members gave support to firefighters at the Solihull meeting, who were glad to hear that anti-cuts TUSC candidates were standing against right-wing, anti-union, anti-Corbyn Labour councillors – the sort that lead the county’s Fire Authority. Ten copies of the Socialist were sold.
Last year saw Birmingham’s bin workers take strike action to stop job cuts and savage pay cuts attempted by the city’s Labour council – again showing that organised, hard fought action can win. As one person going into the meeting said: “This could be the 2018 Birmingham bins.”
Socialists and the 2018 local elections in Birmingham
May 3rd will see local elections take place in Birmingham, with all 101 of the redrawn council wards and seats being contested.
Nationally the Tories continue to show that they are not “strong and stable” but weak and wobbly. The 2017 general election called by Theresa May was supposed to follow the Conservative script – an increased majority for May, with Corbyn’s Labour suffering. The actual results were very different. We predicted that Corbyn’s anti austerity policies would be popular despite the constant sabotage of the Labour right wing. The outcome showed that working class people are looking for change – not surprising given year after year of austerity cuts.
Unfortunately Corbyn’s anti austerity leadership has not yet been reflected in Labour Councils across the country, and Birmingham is no exception.
We have outlined previously how we think the council should be opposing the cuts by refusing to pass on Tory austerity and campaigning to win back money stolen from Birmingham by central government, a strategy which has obtained support at a national level within the local government trade unions as well as union branches locally. Sadly, instead of using some of the substantial reserves (which have now risen since 2010!) to fund services and hold down council tax whilst a campaign is built, they have chosen to reduce library services, close nurseries, cut thousands of jobs and attack Bin and Homecare workers. Birmingham is suffering massively from the crisis of capitalism – we need public representatives who are going to help organise resistance to these attacks.
In recent elections the Socialist Party, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has stood in the city. We wanted to ensure that there was an anti austerity and socialist voice when both of the main parties offered more of the same, pro cuts pro big business polices – this stance being supported by several thousand votes across the city. In the 2017 general election we took the decision not to stand in order to support Jeremy’s battle against the Tories – we distributed thousands of leaflets outlining why the Socialist Party supported Corbyn’s policies, and why they needed to be extended further.
In 2018 we recognise that Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to build on his anti austerity message at a time when the Tories are on the ropes. Therefore we will not be contesting all wards, but will be standing in 10.
Acocks Green Eamonn Flynn
Bournbrook & Selly Park Sam Witts
Bournville & Cotteridge Clive Walder
Brandwood & Kings Heath Bill Murray
Castle Vale Kris O’Sullivan
Handsworth Wood Rachel Jenkins
Perry Barr Corinthia Ward
Shard End Mark Andrews
Stockland Green Ted Woodley
Weoley & Selly Oak Nick Brook-Hart
Whilst recognising Jeremy’s position and so standing in fewer seats, we are continuing to fight austerity and the capitalist crisis using every opportunity we have, whether that’s taking part in campaigns to save the NHS and other key services, helping to build stronger, more militant unions, or standing in elections.
We will be continuing to put forward the idea that councillors do have a choice to oppose the cuts, both in the council chamber and on the streets, and that working class people should not pay for the capitalist crisis.
We will be arguing that to end the situation where thousands of Birmingham kids are living in poverty we will need to create a socialist society that puts ordinary people before profit. A socialist society that through public ownership of the key sectors of the economy including the banks, can plan the enormous resources that exist for the benefit of the majority.
We urge you to support our candidates in the wards where we are standing, attend our public meeting, help our campaign by for example making a donation, putting up a poster or volunteering to distribute leaflets. We also would encourage you to think about joining the Socialist Party – help us build a mass socialist movement armed with the policies that can defeat capitalism once and for all.
‘Birmingham’s Labour Council “needs a sharp kick up the backside” says the Trades Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who have announced that they will be standing 10 candidates in this year’s Birmingham City Council elections.
They will be standing against a number of Council cabinet members who they see as the architects of austerity policies in the Council House.
The group are pledged to opposing all cuts to and privatisation of council services. They are committed to adopting a balanced and legal no cuts budget using reserves and existing borrowing powers while campaigning for the government to return money it has “stolen” from Birmingham, thus enabling them to restore Birmingham’s shattered public services.
TUSC spokesperson Ted Woodley who is standing in Stockland Green ward, said “Birmingham City Council have about £400 million in usable reserves so there is no excuse for passing on the vicious cuts demanded by the weak and wobbly Tory government”
TUSC is highly critical of Labour councils carrying out government diktat to implement cuts across the country and in particular they condemn Birmingham council for spending £6 million trying to cut jobs and pay in the bin service yet choosing to threaten 14 nurseries with closure to save only £160,000. “Councils have a choice to carry out Tory government dirty work or try to stand up for the people of Birmingham.”
TUSC supported Binworkers in last year’s dispute and a number of bin workers have expressed support for TUSC standing candidates. TUSC condemns the waste of more than £6 million of public money in an effort to reduce bin workers’ pay by a supposedly cash strapped council.
Bill Murray, candidate in Brandwood & Kings Heath, added “We would have much preferred to be supporting a Birmingham Labour Party carrying out Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies. But as they aren’t, we have no alternative but to stand and present an anti-austerity, no-cuts alternative to all the mainstream parties to defend local services and offer voters a real choice”
Ted is a member of the RMT transport union, another of the components of TUSC
1) TUSC will host a pre-election public meeting on Tuesday 1st May 7.30 at the Victoria, John Bright Street,City Centre Birmingham. The national chair of TUSC, Dave Nellist will speak at it. Dave was the Labour MP for Coventry South East from 1983 to 1992, when he was expelled from the Labour Party as one of the leaders of the anti-poll tax campaign that brought down Tory premier Margaret Thatcher. He was a Socialist Party Councillor in Coventry 1998 -2012.
TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow of the RMT transport workers’ union, together with other leading trade unionists, the Socialist Party and other socialist groups, to provide an electoral alternative for those opposing austerity.
For information and video clips about TUSC see: www.tusc.org.ukFor interviews and any other information requests, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Clive Heemskerk, the TUSC National Election Agent on 020-8988-8773 or 07989-360158.Dave Nellist can also be contacted on 07970-294237
Not even the snow could keep away pickets and their supporters from demonstrating outside Birmingham City Council house this Saturday. Socialist Party and Socialist Students members joined over one hundred people gathered at Victoria Square to stand up to the latest council attacks against the Homecare workers, including redundancies and ridiculous shift changes that make workers lives more difficult, make the job unsustainable for many, and are therefore detrimental to the service users as well.
There were many different trade union speakers, with one woman saying how the home-care workers did not want redundancies, that they loved their job and the care they provided, however they demand fair pay and more practical and sociable working hours. The speakers were followed by a short march around the city centre.
When speaking to unison stewards and striking home-carers, many expressed how happy they were to see so much student support. There were calls for a ‘people’s budget’ and for the labour councils to finally reflect the labour leadership that gained so much support from workers and students over summer, and to stand up to the brutal tory austerity.
It’s time for the council to put their words into action and to defend our public services and workers. Our support and general anti-austerity message was well received and, despite the extreme weather, there was a positive and passionate vibe from strikers and supporters, all agree it’s time for our second city to stand up to the labour council who refuse to stand up for us!
On 20 January, Birmingham home care staff will be taking strike action against their employer Birmingham City Council – a Labour council.
The Blairite Birmingham City Council is making quite a name for itself having only recently suffered a defeat to the Birmingham bin workers after their 12-week strike action which brought down the then council leader John Clancy. Now other council workers are taking a fight to its doors.
The strike is over changes to the home carers’ working patterns where they will have to work three split shifts during the day: 7am-10am, 12pm-2pm and 4pm-10pm.
These home care workers are lone workers travelling from their homes to the service users’ houses, many by public transport, to provide six weeks of care for people who have just left hospital.
These unrealistic and exhausting working patterns will become a barrier to many of the workers who will no doubt be forced to leave their jobs.
These new patterns are just one of many ways the Labour council is unravelling its social care for the people of Birmingham, a city with a population of 1.1 million.
In 2010 there was a social care workforce of over 7,000 compared to less than 2,000 today, with the council looking to make a further 40% of the home care staff redundant.
By continuing to run the service into the ground it will make it easier for the council to scrap the care altogether and leave the local community to depend on the private sector – a sector which is profit driven at the expense of both the workers and service users.
Fight for funding
Unison, which has balloted the home carers, rightly points out that central government has cut the funding for local councils but the union fails to place blame at the local Labour council too.
After the massive backing of Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto in last summer’s general election, local Labour councils are in a better position, now more than ever, to fight against austerity and refuse to carry out a single cut.
They would have the backing of the local community, workers and trade unions. Yet what does Birmingham council do? It does the Tories’ bidding and carrys out devastating cuts without putting up the tiniest bit of fight.
In the 1980s, Militant, the Socialist Party’s predecessor, had city councillors in Liverpool who defied Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and refused to implement cuts.
Instead they fought for more funding from central government, built council houses and created jobs.
It would not be hard for Birmingham council to do the same and potentially topple the current weak and divided Tory government, yet this is unlikely to happen while the council is a Blairite stronghold following the same ideology as the Tories.
Birmingham home carers will be striking from 11am to 2.30pm on Saturday 20 January with a strike rally being held outside Birmingham council house at 12pm.
The strike will be seen as more than just about their working patterns but also a fight to defend public services and the service users they care for.