OVER 800 council manual workers joined a lobby of Birmingham City Council last week.
The lobby was called by the UCATT, UNISON, AEEU and TGWU unions to protest against the privatisation of the Housing Repairs and Maintenance Division. The doors to the council chambers were locked to stop the workers storming in-as they did on an earlier lobby.
Undeterred, the workers marched through Birmingham city centre instead. With their union banners at the front, they chanted and sang, "Don't allow New Labour to outflank us, we know they are a load of merchant bankers, crooks, gangsters and profiteers, they get fatter every year."
Workers blocked the roads and stopped the traffic around the housing department's offices. The council wants to sell off its entire council housing stock and is scapegoating workers for the massive backlog of housing repairs. Strikers from the Dudley Group of Hospitals, who are also fighting privatisation, received tremendous support when they spoke and raised 350 in a collection.
1,000 at rally
BRADFORD'S first major display of popular anger against the Labour-controlled council's privatisation plans took place last week, when more than 1,000 people crowded into the city's St George's Hall. The rally was the first mass event organised by the Campaign Against Privatisation.
The campaign is headed by the Bradford Trades Union Council and involves many of the city's unions. Many in the audience were council workers whose conditions are directly threatened by privatisation. They heard prominent left wingers and trade unionists speak out against the plan to sell off education, council homes and even the management of the city centre to private firms.
Labour MP Terry Rooney said that privatisation "is about asset stripping. This is about services that have been built up on the backs of people's contributions over 100 years, and they are not for sale today, tomorrow or ever."
Mohamed Taj, secretary of the bus workers' TGWU union branch, told the meeting: "Privatisation is said to improve efficiency. Well, I will use one word to prove that wrong-Railtrack!" Paul Russell of the NATFHE lecturers' union said people in the city were being bombarded with propaganda in favour of privatisation, but that "it is a way of lining someone's pockets".
PARENTS AND pupils from Waltham Forest schools lobbied their councillors on Saturday of last week against the east London council's plan to hand the education service in the borough to a private company. The Labour-controlled council is rushing to privatise education in Waltham Forest without consulting parents or teachers. A march is planned on Thursday 14 December from the central library at 6pm.