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Council Unions lodge dispute with the employers over pay claim – time to prepare for action!

Council Unions lodge dispute with the employers over pay claim – time to prepare for action!

Unite, Unison, GMB

Unite, Unison, GMB

By a council worker in Coventry

News is coming out that the three council unions – Unite, GMB and Unison, have lodged a formal dispute with the local government employers over the 2014/15 pay claim.

According to Unison, the employers have cancelled any further talks as they want to wait to see what the new minimum wage will be. The minimum wage is due to be increased in October of this year.

This is a complete insult to local government workers – our pay has fallen by 18 per cent since 2010 if you take inflation in to account.

Last year we got a measly 1 per cent increase, which in real terms was a pay cut. After the Coalition came in to power, all public sector workers earning under £21,000 were supposed to get a £250 payment. The local government employers refused to pay this. Our local Labour council, despite budgeting for this payment, scandalously refused to pay.

We are suffering  massive cuts with worse to come. We are doing more for less pay. That rule doesn’t seem to apply to the bankers or the politicians though!

The leaderships of the three council unions need to give a lead. The employers have made it abundantly clear that they will not be meeting our claim of an increase of £1.20 per hour. We need to prepare for action. Now is the time to fight. This isn’t just about pay but about jobs and indeed the whole future of public services.

In October, we wrote

‘Members and activists within the 3 unions need to discuss how we can win a decent pay rise. We need to link the fight for a decent pay rise to that of saving jobs and services as they are very much part of the same battle. We saw on 30th November 2011 that when the unions co-ordinate their action, the fantastic effect that had on members. It was only the decision of the leaderships of the big unions to end the strike action that destroyed the momentum that had been built up. That can’t be allowed to happen again.’

Recent years have unfortunately shown that the old adage ‘weakness invites aggression’ to be true, as a lack of a national fightback from the leaderships of Unison, Unite and GMB to defends jobs and services has only encouraged further attacks on our members.

The employer needs to know that the unions are serious about fighting this latest attack – lets follow the lead of unions like the RMT who have shown that action gets results.

–          Fight for the full pay claim

–          No to attacks on jobs and services

–          Prepare for nationally co-ordinated action

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Coventry City Council plan more cuts – vital services and 140 jobs under threat!

Coventry City Council plan more cuts – vital services and 140 jobs under threat!

No to cuts!

No to cuts!

It has been announced today that Coventry City Council are planning more huge cuts, this time to adult social care. The £6 million of cuts will affect some of the most vulnerable in our city – and see care workers, many of them female, lose their jobs.

According to the Coventry Telegraph (published on their website) the proposals include the following

* Closing the council’s Aylesford residential care home, Primrose Hill Street, Hillfields, used for 26 people needing post-hospital care.

* Privatising the council’s “home support short-term service” for 850 people a year, where carers visit the elderly and disabled in their homes.

* Closing either Jack Ball House in Potters Green, or George Rowley House, Canley. They are “housing with care” bedsit-style schemes for 23 long-term residents each with “critical” or “substantial” care needs.

* Ending elderly day care services at Frank Walsh House, Hillfields, and Risen Christ, Wyken Croft, and moving users to Gilbert Richards Centre in Earlsdon, described as a “better facility”.

* Ending two day services for adults with learning difficulties – at Curriers Close, Canley; and Whatcombe Close, Henley Green – with services moved to Frank Walsh House.

* Reducing dementia day services at Maymorn Centre, Holbrooks, from seven to five days a week.

* Cutting council on-site housing wardens, grants for community alarms, and other “housing-related support” to external providers of sheltered or private accommodation, where elderly or disabled people are deemed to have lower-level social care needs.

* Cutting grants to charities – such as Coventry Carers Centre, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society – which provide information and support.

* Cutting subsidised transport to day centres.

* Selling the previously planned new Broad Lane site for the council-run Eric Williams House for dementia patients, which would remain at Brookside Avenue, Whoberley

Labour leader of the Council Ann Lucas has stated that they are carrying out the Tory government’s cuts with ‘a heavy heart’ and this theme was repeated by Cllr Alison Gingell in a radio interview. However this is unlikely to be of any consolation to those bearing the brunt of these cuts and who face a very uncertain future.

Labour could fight the cuts – but have chosen not to

The Labour Council are in position, with a big majority, to rally support across the city for a fightback against both these cuts to adult social care and the cuts in general. As a Unison representative correctly pointed out on local radio this evening, they should be demanding more money from central government. Of course the government is not just going to say ‘Ok then, here is more money.’ It will take a battle and a fight. We might not win. However it is surely better than passing on this Tory brutality to the people of Coventry.

A consultation will be starting shortly. The people of Coventry must make their views known. However, the likelihood is that the Council will plough ahead with these attacks – so the three council trade unions, Unison, Unite and GMB need to start discussing with members about the sort of course that we will need to take. This should include putting on the agenda the very real possibility and neccessity of industrial action.

Political response

There also needs to be a political response. Again and again Labour are attacking our union members and the most vulnerable. There needs to be debate in all of the three unions about why we continue to fund a Labour Party that is so willing to carry out the bidding of the Tories and whether they deserve the support of unions in the local elections next year.

We will carry further comment and reports as we receive them.

 

 

Coventry, the council that would not fight

Coventry, the council that would not fight

We thought we would post this video made by a Socialist Party member in the city, which was put together after Labour approved more cuts back in February of this year. At the end of the video there is a link to show how the council could fight back. This comes after Labour are proposing to make cuts to street wardens.

After Falkirk – Unite and the Labour Party

After Falkirk – Unite and the Labour Party

We are publishing this article by Unite activist Kevin Parslow in the wake of the controversy in Falkirk. We think it will be of interest to Unite members in Coventry and elsewhere. Comments and opinions welcome.

Unite contingent on 20 October 2012 demo against austerity, photo by C Job

Unite contingent on 20 October 2012 demo against austerity, photo by C Job

Unite meets roadblock in New Labour

Time to discuss bold step of disaffiliation

Kevin Parslow

The attack on Unite, the biggest trade union in the country, following New Labour’s suspension of the election candidate selection process in Falkirk West, is a decisive moment in the relationship between the unions and the Labour Party.

Unite’s preferred candidate, Karie Murphy, and constituency chairperson Stephen Deans, have been suspended from party positions.

Tom Watson, New Labour‘s general election strategist, has resigned his position following these moves.

New Labour has scrapped the scheme, originally backed by party leader Ed Miliband, which allowed unions to pay the first year of membership subscriptions from their political funds and which Unite used in Falkirk West to sign up over 100 of its members to the party.

Outrageously, Miliband is handing over Labour’s secret report, not shown to Unite, to the police! Unite members will be indignant at these scandalous moves.

They have echoes of Labour alleging ‘corruption’ against the Liverpool city councillors and Militant who fought against cuts in the 1980s. If Unite does not fight now, the union will be seriously damaged.

Any pretence that Ed Miliband was independent of the right has been blown away by this confrontation as he has become a prisoner of the Blairite faithful. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was prophetic when interviewed in the journal New Statesman on 24 April this year:

Len McCluskey, Shrewsbury 24 press conference, 23.1.13, photo Bob Severn

Len McCluskey, Shrewsbury 24 press conference, 23.1.13, photo Bob Severn

“He fears, though, that Miliband could still fall under the sway of those he pejoratively refers to as ‘Blairites’. He singles out the shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander and the shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, for criticism.

.“Ed Miliband must spend most of his waking hours grappling with what lies before him. If he is brave enough to go for something radical, he’ll be the next prime minister.

If he gets seduced by the Jim Murphys and the Douglas Alexanders, then the truth is that he’ll be defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history” [our emphasis].

Murphy has been prominent in this crisis with scathing attacks on Unite and Len. One unnamed Blairite has called Unite an ‘organised conspiracy’! Furthermore, these attacks have been egged on by Cameron, the Tories and the capitalist press.

They are all in favour of a tame, pro-capitalist Labour Party. Unite must come out fighting to rebut this onslaught at every opportunity.

Transformation of Labour

But this is not just an organisational attack on the trade unions and the left that remain in New Labour.

As the Socialist Party has consistently explained, this is part of the political transformation of Labour from a party based on workers, that had socialist aspirations, albeit with a pro-capitalist leadership, into a pro-big business party with similarities to the Democrats in the US.

Even from the first attacks on our predecessor, Militant, we predicted there would be attacks on the left and left unions.

With reference to the process against the Militant Editorial Board, which led to five expulsions, we wrote:

The purge will not stop at Militant. It will grow to other left groups within the party” (Militant 628, 26 November 1982, quoted in ‘Rise of Militant’).

Unite is now considered part of the ‘left’ within New Labour and has been compared to Militant by the press! To this end, the Blairites have decided the union must be humiliated. They want to rid the party of union influence and expel unions whose predecessors helped to form the Labour Representation Committee in 1900!

New Labour has consistently refused to listen to the unions on policy. There have been no real commitments on scrapping anti-trade union laws.

Cuts and privatisations are carried out by Labour councils and councillors who oppose them are suspended or expelled.

Now, Miliband and Ed Balls have affirmed their commitment to the Tories’ spending plans. In other words, cuts planned by the Tories will be implemented by a New Labour government, if the party wins the next election.

This will mean confrontation with the working class and the unions. The idea of a general strike against austerity cannot be postponed in the hope of ‘better times’ under Miliband. If not fought for and called now, the demand will still be urgent under New Labour.

Unite members in action: Strike at 'One Housing', June 2013, Woodgreen site, London

Unite members in action: Strike at ‘One Housing’, June 2013, Woodgreen site, London

Unite’s strategy

The political strategy of Unite, to recruit its members to Labour in order to get more working-class election candidates selected, has come across another roadblock.

The Socialist Party has explained on many occasions that the Labour Party is unreformable. New Labour has closed all the democratic avenues for real change that once existed.

But given Unite’s agreed strategy, we said the only chance it had of being successful would be for Unite to go in with its full programme against all cuts, the scrapping of the anti-trade union laws, and nationalisation, win over the ranks of Labour and get rid of the Blairites.

Even then, we said it would be unlikely to succeed given the obstacles in Unite’s path.

But the union’s strategy was first challenged when a handful of Labour councillors who voted against cuts, some of them Unite members, were suspended or expelled from Labour groups and the party.

The two brave Southampton councillors who opposed austerity have drawn the correct conclusions and become part of TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition).

Warrington councillor Kevin Bennett has recently had his suspension from the Labour group extended for a further six months.

Unite members and others supporting Kevin Bennett outside his Labour group appeal hearing on 1st July 2013

Unite members and others supporting Kevin Bennett outside his Labour group appeal hearing on 1st July 2013

Now the focus has switched onto the parliamentary selection stage. New Labour does not want representatives who would fight for the working class.

Unite now has three possible ways forward. The first would be to capitulate to New Labour. This would be disastrous, not just for its political strategy but for its industrial one too. There would be growing anger and indignation in the rank and file, and doubts would be raised over the union’s commitment to fight for its policy. This would cause serious problems for Len and the left leadership of the union and jeopardise their position.

The second would be to continue with the current strategy. This would mean the likelihood of further collisions with the Labour bureaucracy, in which Len has already admitted he ‘can place no trust’. This would not prevent Unite having to make a decision later on the continued scandal of providing funds to New Labour, to the tune of £9 million since Miliband was elected Labour leader in 2010, with the support of the unions! Immediately, Unite would also face the decision of supporting anti-cuts councillors.

The third path is to take the bold step of the union disaffiliating from New Labour. The Socialist Party believes this is the correct road to take. The working class has waited too long for its own party since New Labour accepted the free market and dropped its famous Clause 4, Part IV, which envisaged nationalisation and socialism.

What Unite should do:

Unite members, in their branches, stewards committees and constitutional committees of the union, should pass resolutions defending the union against these attacks and calling for a full, democratic discussion of the alternative. In particular, they should call on the leadership to implement the following plan of action:

  • An emergency executive council should be called to discuss the crisis.
  • The EC should pass a resolution for a recall rules conference which would have the end of removing the references to Labour Party affiliation from the rulebook, thereby facilitating disaffiliation. This conference should also discuss political representation for the working class.
  • Should this be carried, Unite should call meetings and conferences of trade unionists, from affiliated and non-affiliated unions, including those linked to TUSC, with the aim of forming a new workers’ party which would have the programme of fighting the cuts, scrapping the anti-trade union laws and opposing privatisation of public services. Such a party would truly reflect the needs of the working class and fight in workplaces, communities and in elections for socialist ideas

Teachers take fourth and fifth day of strike action – support needed

Teachers  at John Gulson take fourth and fifth day of strike action this week – support needed

Teachers lobby Coventry City Council today

Teachers lobby Coventry City Council today

Members of the NUT and NASUWT at John Gulson Primary School today took their fourth day of strike action against excessive observations and an unfair appraisal policy. Tomorrow, Wednesday 12th June, they will take their fifth day of action. Teachers organised a lobby of Labour Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr David Kershaw and Coventry City Council.  They were supported by members of the Socialist Party, Unite, and Coventry TUC.

Please continue to send messages of support in to the teachers using the email addresses below.

montyhaul@hotmail.com and coventry.nut@btconnect.com