Socialist Worker

Bosses set their sights on public sector workers

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2189

Protesters against plans to close the accident and emergency unit at the King George hospital in east London were given a warm reception in Ilford town centre last Saturday Picture: Socialist Worker

Protesters against plans to close the accident and emergency unit at the King George hospital in east London were given a warm reception in Ilford town centre last Saturday Picture: Socialist Worker


Almost a third of public sector bosses are planning to cut jobs in the first three months of this year.

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says the jobs market is “on the ropes” and the outlook is particularly “bleak” in the public sector.

Alan Downey is head of public sector at KPMG business advisers, which helped with the research. He said, “It is now only a matter of time before we are faced with the deepest and most prolonged cuts in public expenditure that anyone can remember.”

Birmingham council began a jobs cull last week.

It announced plans to get rid of 2,000 workers in the next 12 months in a bid to cut £75 million from its budget.

That’s in addition to the 800 posts that were slashed this financial year.

“These jobs cuts will hit the most vulnerable hardest, with children’s daycare and elderly peoples’ homes earmarked for closure,” says Nick Burke, a Unison union shop steward in the council’s social services department.

“Even services that act as a safety net and help prevent those in bad situations from facing truly terrible ones are in the firing line.

“The union cannot allow this to happen. Alongside service users and the public, we have to launch the most determined campaign—and quickly too, before resignation sets in.”

Protest

Unison is planning a “noisy protest” outside the council’s budget meeting on Tuesday of next week.

General secretary Dave Prentis, who will address the rally, says the union will not tolerate damaging cuts to everyday services.

“The public needs to know that these job losses are a political choice, not an economic necessity,” he says.

His criticisms need to be turned into hard-hitting action to stop the cuts.

Health bosses are also joining the onslaught on jobs.

Government “reorganisation” plans mean that one in three accident and emergency (A&E) departments could close across London, with 11 out of 31 threatened.

NHS bosses across Britain are rolling out similar plans to downgrade district general hospitals and replace their A&E departments with new polyclinics.

Outrage at the cuts programme is seeing a mushrooming of local campaigns and demonstrations.

Protesters against the threats to close the A&E unit at King George took to the streets of Ilford, east London, last week.

Campaigners for the Whittington hospital in north London are planning a “huge march” next Saturday 27 February to defend their services.

Health workers say the closures will result in thousands of job cuts and a loss of vital services.

“These proposals are dangerous and must be stopped,” says Newcastle doctor Gerard Reissmann.

“Polyclinics are going to be staffed in a similar way to out of hours GP services. They promote cost saving and privatisation above everything else.

“The new centres will mean the worst of both worlds for the patient.

“It would mean a doctor who doesn’t know you and may not have access to your medical records, and a lack of specialist facilities and skilled staff to help you if you are seriously ill.

Delays

“For example, if you turn up at a polyclinic with severe stomach pain, and the doctor suspects acute appendicitis, there won’t be the option of rushing you into theatre for an operation.

“This is because there won’t be any surgeons or theatre.

“You will have to wait for an ambulance to pick you up from the polyclinic and take you to the nearest remaining A&E, which could be many miles away. Delays in treatment could cost lives.”

Meanwhile, the sweeping assault on education is also provoking growing resistance.

Lecturers at Leeds university, who face redundancies and a 10 percent budget cut, this week announced they will strike.

Their first action is set for Thursday of next week.

In an indication of the government’s vulnerability, business secretary Lord Mandelson immediately ordered that the cuts be put on hold for three months. And, as more universities and colleges announce that they too are planning cuts, the mood to resist is spreading.

Management at King’s College London says it wants to slash 205 jobs.

It also admits it wants to cut its total budget by 10 percent—which would mean the loss of over 500 jobs.

In response 150 lecturers came to the university’s UCU branch last week, and voted overwhelmingly to ballot for strikes.

Campaigners and workers in the public sector have already proven that there is a mood for united action to resist the wave of cuts that threatens our jobs and services.

The unions should use their power to channel that anger into effective action to derail the cuts that are happening now, and those threatened by all the mainstream parties after the election.


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