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Fighting back in Birmingham

Birmingham anti-cuts protest plus industrial strikes and ballot round-up
Issue 2904
Monday's May Day protest against massive cuts in Birmingham city council (Picture: People's Assembly on Twitter)

Monday’s May Day protest against massive cuts in Birmingham city council (Picture: People’s Assembly on Twitter)

Birmingham Unison union members, other trade unionists and anti‑cuts supporters joined a demonstration on Monday against plans for savage assaults on services and jobs.

The rally in Centenary Square is part of the “Brum Rise Up” movement that recently saw a planning meting for resistance.

The Labour authority is ramming through £300 million cuts over two years combined with a 21 percent rise in council tax.

GMB union members at 35 schools in the city have voted for strikes over delays to equal pay claims.

The equal pay liabilities are not responsible for a penny of the cuts. Birmingham council issued a section 114 notice effectively declaring bankruptcy in September.

Its leaders pointed to an equal pay liability of about £760 million and a £100 million bill to fix a failed IT system upgrade.

This led councillors to pass the biggest local authority cuts in history. Now questions are being asked about the basis on which these cuts were made.

Max Caller—“Max the Axe”—who the government sent in on £1,200 a day to make the cuts, told one meeting that the current equal pay figure would eventually be replaced by a “real number”.

Fred Grindrod, a Labour councillor and chair of the council’s audit committee, said “serious questions” remained about the numbers.

He added that the assertion that it may not be the real figure was a “mind‑boggling situation to be in”.

Research by James Brackley, a lecturer in accounting at the University of Sheffield, found that the failed Oracle IT system was by far the council’s biggest financial problem, and its budget deficits “have little to do with the equal pay issue”.

Whatever the machinations at the top, it will take strikes, protests and occupations to stop the council’s assaults and win pay justice.


Liverpool strikers battle on for a £1,500 payout

Strikers at National Museums of Liverpool (NML) in the PCS union were back on the picket line last week fighting for a Covid payment.

NML bosses are refusing to pay the £1,500 cost of living payment the strikers won last year. Instead it has offered just £250.

The 230 strikers have called 10 weeks of strikes since 17 February. The strikers were part of the PCS union national action last year.

That ended with a 4.5 percent rise, plus 0.5 percent for the lowest paid—and a £1,500 one‑off payment.

NML has denied workers this £1,500 payment. One PCS member from another branch, Gillian, said in support, “You deserve the same cost of living crisis payment the rest of us have received.

“Keep fighting for the rights you deserve.” Strikers are clear that they’re not going away until they get what’s theirs.

These PCS members are part of the current national ballot and because they are over 50 percent this means their strike mandate will cover them to December.

Management have offered talks, but further strikes are set for next Saturday and Sunday, 18 and 19 May, 25 May to 2 June, 8 and 9 June, 15 and 16 June

  • Visit pickets at Museum of Liverpool 8-11am Pier Head, Mann Island, Liverpool L3 1DG
  • Send messages of solidarity to PCS@liverpoolmuseums. org.uk and tweet them at @PCSLiverpoolMus
  • Sign the petition to the chair of the NML board at tinyurl. com/NMLChair 

Barnet strikes escalate

Barnet mental health social workers in north London have notched up 37 strike days already and are set for more action on Monday.

They plan a three‑week strike from 13 May and a four-week walkout from 17 June.

The strikers reballoted for action at the end of February and won an 87 percent yes vote on a 70 percent turnout.

Unison union members are battling the Labour‑led council over three demands—a safe service, lower waiting lists and fair pay.

The workers want the same retention payment as child social workers receive in the borough to stem a catastrophic loss of staff.

The council has moved to bring in private firms to scab on the strike or to replace council workers in the long-term.

It engaged Flex360 to supply “additional service provision” during the two‑week strike from 15-26 April.

But this cover as withdrawn after the union pointed out the use of agencies to replace strikers was illegal.

  • Messages of support to [email protected] Picket lines 8-10am at 2 Bristol Avenue, Colindale, NW9 4EW

Bristol and Hackney walkouts for education

Teachers and support staff struck at City Academy Bristol last week and were set to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

The strike is over issues including bosses’ mismanagement of bullying and harassment cases.

There has also been disparity over additional responsibility payments and failure to include break time in the directed time budget—the working hours of staff.

Support staff at the school say that bosses have been bullying and harassing the special educational needs and disabilities workers and there is a lack of transparency over job evaluation and pay parity for similar roles in other schools.

Support staff are paid less than similar roles in the other 26 schools within the same trust that City Academy Bristol is in.

Send messages of support to [email protected]

  • Workers at The Garden school in Hackney, east London, were set to strike this week over excessive workload. The school provides education for learners with autism.

Last chance to have a say

The PCS union national strike ballot spanning the civil service in Britain— launched on 18 March— is coming to an end.

In a previous national survey PCS members overwhelming supported strikes over pay and conditions.

The dispute involves nearly 150,000 PCS members across 171 employers in the civil service and related areas.

The union’s pay claims include an above-inflation rise, pay equality across departments and a minimum wage of £15 per hour.

Union sources say members in the Department for Work and Pensions have reached 48 percent participation—very close to the 50 percent threshold to meet the anti-union laws.

This needs to be replicated across the civil service. The ballot ends next Monday, 13 May.


Firefighters need more

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) leaders are supporting acceptance of the outcome of talks with employers.

Pay negotiations have been underway at the National Joint Council between the union and fire employers for several months.

The FBU has now managed to secure an offer, which it says would be binding on all fire and rescue services across Britain.

The key offer is a pay uplift of 4 percent and minimum maternity pay entitlement of 26 weeks on full pay.

FBU members will now be balloted on whether to accept the terms of the deal until 17 May.

If approved, the headline pay increase will take effect from July this year.

But 4 percent is less than FBU members need to make up for years of below-inflation deals.

More can be won with the Tories on the rocks.

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