Socialist Worker

Southampton - how can workers beat Tory cuts?

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2291

Southampton council workers pile pressure on the Tories  (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Southampton council workers pile pressure on the Tories (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Around 200 council workers and their supporters lobbied Southampton council’s budget-setting meeting on Wednesday of last week.

They were there to show that they still won’t accept the 5 percent pay cuts that their Tory bosses forced on them a year ago.

“Today is the anniversary of the decision to cut salaries across the board,” said Jill, a social worker.

“We’re here to remind the council we won’t put up with it. We will keep fighting.”

The Unison and Unite unions launched a programme of rolling strikes against the pay cut. Another strike is planned on 10 April.

But this time the focus of the campaign has shifted to the upcoming council elections.

The Labour Party believes it has a chance to win in Southampton. And its councillors and activists had a substantial presence on the protest.

The unions’ officials were looking to the council elections too.

“We’ve always said this campaign would be taken forward industrially, politically and legally,” said Peter Allenson, Unite national officer for local government.

“Industrially we’ve done that, legally we’ve done that, and politically, coming up to the May elections, that’s what we’ll be doing as well.”

Unison regional manager Steve Brazier said he looked forward to a victory that would mean “turning over the Tories, reinstating your pay and protecting jobs in the future”.

“You’ve shown as workers that you won’t accept their cuts,” he added. “They will pay on 3 May.”

Trips

Steve, a refuse worker and Unite member, agreed. “I personally took an £1,800 pay cut. I’ve got kids. They can’t go on school trips. They have to make do with old clothes. In this cold we can’t afford to put money in the electric meter for heating.

“We want the council leadership changed, however we do it.”

Richard Williams, leader of the Labour group on the council, got the biggest cheers of all when he addressed the protest.

He restated a commitment to reverse some of the cuts. In a reference to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s pro-cuts policies, he said, “Whatever anybody says higher up any political food chain, we stick by that.”

Williams also asked the workers on the protest to do him a favour—and not heckle the Tories at the council meeting.

“If you can, and I know it’s probably the hardest thing you’ll have to do today, keep quiet when they talk. Because after that, we get to talk.”

But Williams did not go into details of his planned “reinstatement programme” for pay.

A letter from Williams to Unison members, available on the branch’s website, makes it clear the pledge will only be “starting in the first year of a Labour administration with the lowest paid”.

And it adds that Labour would be “forced to make some of the hardest decisions any city council has ever had to make”.

Whoever wins the council elections, the strikes will have to continue until all the council’s cuts are defeated.


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News
Tue 21 Feb 2012, 18:24 GMT
Issue No. 2291
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