Fighting cuts and privatisation
AROUND 100 UNISON union members and Socialist Alliance supporters joined a protest at Dacorum Borough Council in west Hertfordshire on Tuesday of last week.
The council plans to privatise 200 jobs in the council core services, backed by Tory and Liberal councillors. Council workers in Hemel Hempstead are furious that their jobs will be privatised, as the council is refusing an in-house bid. The protesters were due to hold a lobby of the full council meeting on Wednesday of this week.
Sacked for cuts fight
A NEW Labour council has sacked a trade union activist whose only crime was to oppose cuts and privatisation. The council has also thrown down a gauntlet to Britain’s biggest union by refusing to meet its leader to discuss the sacking. Telford & Wrekin council last week sacked Mike Jeffries, a Telford UNISON branch officer.
Mike was charged with “gross misconduct” for his role in a 250-strong council lobby last December. When protesters in the council chamber were to leave Mike called a vote-and people voted to stay.
That was the pretext for Mike’s sacking. He was accused of “failing to use your leadership” to clear the room of protesters. He was also charged with showing “an unacceptable lack of respect for the council, its leaders and the chief executive”.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis offered to come to Telford and meet with the council’s leaders to try and resolve the situation. Yet the council leader has refused to even meet Prentis. “UNISON is the biggest union in the country and it needs to get fully behind the fight over my job,” Mike Jeffries told Socialist Worker. “If the council gets away with this it will send a clear message that New Labour can silence opposition to its privatisation plans and cuts in services. I want Dave Prentis to come and represent me personally at the appeal against my sacking, and to campaign for action if needed to force the council to back down.”
TWO KEY workplaces in Waltham Forest’s education department were closed on Thursday of last week as workers from the TGWU, UNISON and NUT unions took strike action. They were fighting the council’s plans to privatise the education authority.
The strike was solid, and received support from parents and other workers across the borough. Around 30 people attended a forum in the afternoon against privatisation. One TGWU member called for the TUC leaders to launch a concerted defence of public sector services.
Some 100 parents, teachers and council workers gave the councillors an angry reception at a lobby later that evening. Disgracefully, the Labour-led council voted to award the contract to the private company EduAction.
EduAction is formed by Amey Construction and Nord Anglia. It already runs parts of education in Hackney and is bidding to take over three schools. However, there are plans to escalate industrial action, with the NUT calling for a ballot of all its members in the borough for strike action.
“DON’T GIVE our chefs the sack. We want our canteens back!” That was the slogan on the steps of Southampton Civic Centre on Wednesday of last week as 100 strikers and their supporters lobbied a city council meeting. This was the second in a series of strikes against the closure of two staff canteens with the loss of 14 jobs.
Staff are angry both at the loss of a workplace facility that many of them use, and at the Labour-led council’s attack on a group of mostly low paid women workers.
Up to now just over 100 staff have been involved in the strike action. But UNISON plans to ballot its entire city centre membership to escalate the action in September.
HOSPITAL WORKERS in the UNISON union in Southampton protested outside local hospitals on Monday of last week over Labour’s cost of living allowance. Some 2.5 percent has been added to the pay of qualified nurses and allied professions in some south coast towns. However, other staff have been denied this rise.
Kevin Jenner, a porter, said, “This means that my partner gets the extra rise as she’s a nurse, but although we share the bills, my cost of living must be lower than hers as I don’t get the 2.5 percent.” Porters, auxiliary nurses, technicians and clerical workers joined Monday’s protests.
They were followed up with a demonstration of up to 100 people through Winchester last Saturday.
AN ANGRY group of 60 parents and supporters lobbied Hackney council in east London on Tuesday of last week to protest at the threat to two nurseries. Hackney councillors have voted to close the council-run Wetherell nursery. They also voted to close Oranges and Lemons, a community nursery. New Labour now has a majority on the council. Its cuts come at the same time as earmarking 600,000 for gentrification of the town hall square. Those on the lobby heard a teacher speak about the state of her school. The Sir Thomas Abney Primary School teacher spoke about the horror of toilets and washbasins that have caused dysentery and have not been overhauled in 50 years.
Two more council nurseries, St John’s and Fernbank, could come under the axe in September.
AT HAGGERSTON School a receptionist was made compulsorily redundant two weeks ago. The teachers, office staff, technicians and caretakers have united to save the job.
They have twice refused to work until the head agreed to meet with them. They have also held daily morning demonstrations. Some 42 workers held a lobby of the governing body on Thursday of last week. Management have promised to restore the post. However, they have been playing for time to get to the end of term.
The workers have resolved to continue their fight in September.
Tens of thousands could walk out
A round-up of workplace struggles
A round-up of transport workers’ struggles