Socialist Worker

Groups of Tower Hamlets workers move towards strikes

by Paul McGarr
Issue No. 2232

Teachers and council workers in Tower Hamlets, east London, this week moved a step closer to a borough-wide strike against cuts.

A meeting of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in the borough voted unanimously on Monday of this week to take the argument for a strike ballot to school meetings in first weeks of term in January – and then, on 24 January, hold a mass meeting to vote on going ahead with a ballot.

Monday's 50-strong meeting was double the usual size of NUT branch meetings, and taking place in the last week of term its size indicates the strength of feeling around the planned cuts.

Council workers in Unison, the GMB and Unite unions have also held meetings in Tower Hamlets and have passed motions backing a move towards strikes.

The timetables could see ballots taking place in February with a one-day borough wide strike of thousands of workers early in March – in the run-up to the council's budget setting, and also the run up to George Osborne's next budget ion 23 March and the TUC national demonstration in 26 March.

The cuts in Tower Hamlets are aimed at central education services, as well as other council services—and could see hundreds of jobs go by next April. Though schools will not be directly hit by this round of cuts, crucial central services such as staff working with teenage mums, family and behaviour support services and so on could be decimated.

All the unions have agreed that a response that only ballots workers in those services directly hit by cuts will not be effective, and that the fight is one for all workers across the council and the borough's schools.

A similar fight over cuts to central services is developing in Camden, north London, with similar plans for a possible borough-wide strike in March being discussed by unions there.

Activists elsewhere should be seeking to push for action over cuts on similar timetable wherever possible – as the political impact of widespread strikes in the run-up to the budget and the TUC demo will be sharp.

In Tower Hamlets schools the key need now is for meetings in January to carry the arguments for action.

Unions in the borough last week also met with the recently elected mayor, who was elected on an anti-cuts platform. We made it clear that we will fight the council if it implements cuts, but we also called on the mayor and council to work with the unions to build a campaign against the government over cuts.

A 100-strong lobby of the council last week reinforced the same message. The mayor agreed to work with the unions to hold meetings around the borough to build for the TUC protest on 26 March, and he full council has also backed this protest now.

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Tue 14 Dec 2010, 17:30 GMT
Issue No. 2232
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