Standing Up For The Working Class

Working class people in the Black Country have been thrown under the bus for years now.

Local councils have cut hundreds of millions of pounds from services, seeing thousands of jobs axed in the process. And thanks to a decade long squeeze on wages we are now being hammered by a cost of living crisis which both Labour and Tories on councils and in Westminster are doing next to nothing about.

That’s why Socialist Party members are standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in this May’s council elections to take on the establishment parties and offer an alternative for working class people in Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.

Between now and 5th May we’ll be letting people know that they don’t have to waste their vote on the same old establishment parties.

Socialists don’t just want to defend the scraps the government have left us. We fight to stop all cuts but also bring back all the valuable services sold off, closed and abandoned over the years.

Rather than working class people just about managing to scrape by, we fight for an end to the cost of living squeeze, starting with a £15/hr minimum wage, a 15% pay rise in the NHS and care, an end to zero-hour contracts and a 50% increase to pensions.

If you agree, get in touch to find out how you can get involved.

We’ll also be holding a public meeting to discuss how we can build the campaign for a political voice for the working class:

Black Country TUSC public meeting

7pm, Tuesday 3rd May 2022

Bilston People’s Centre

Wolverhampton Street

Bilston

WV14 0LT

And on Thursday 5th May, you can vote for the following TUSC candidates:

Wolverhampton

Bilston East – Hannah Davis

Oxley – Josh Allerton

Sandwell

Cradley Heath & Old Hill – Cammilla Mngaza

Oldbury – Richard Gingell

Wednesbury North – Gareth Knox

Dudley

St Thomas’s – Nicola Fisher

This post promoted by Joshua Allerton at 84 Blackburn Avenue, Wolverhampton on behalf of Black Country TUSC candidates

Somers Forge Workers Make History

Metal workers at Somers Forge in Halesowen made history just before Christmas after taking strike action for the first time in the factory’s 155 year history. Over 30 GMB union members joined the picket line, leading to a shutdown of the metalworking shop.


When the pandemic was raging at the end of 2020, management closed the enhanced sick pay scheme overnight, with workers losing thousands of pounds in contributions paid in over many years. Then earlier this year, the company withdrew from the existing two year pay deal, and are now refusing to backdate the new one to April after stringing out negotiations.

This follows years of pay freezes and attacks on pensions under the ownership of the Folkes family, and is despite the company being consistently profitable pre-pandemic and by their own admission having a healthy order book.
Principal shareholder Constantine Folkes himself clocked in at 37th on the Birmingham Post rich list last year (though he’s currently resident in Jersey, having previously been under investigation for tax evasion and misappropriation of company funds).

Workers at Somers have now taken two days strike action, with more planned following the Christmas shutdown to make sure they get a better share of that wealth their work throughout the pandemic has created.

Sandwell Bin Workers Score Victory

It’s a good thing Serco run refuse centres, because they certainly belong in the trash. This time there’s trouble up in Sandwell in the West Midlands where over 100 refuse workers have been on strike citing poor pay, dangerous conditions and bullying from management.

The strikes started with a few days here and there from August, increasing in intensity with a plan to escalate in the build up to Christmas. However, following a 90% ballot to accept a deal from Serco, those plans are no more.

The offer itself is a 4% increase, as well as an uplift of around £1,000 for drivers, a promise to bring agency workers onto permanent contracts and to fix safety issues around the site.

While this is a welcome victory, the issues are far from solved. The Sandwell refuse workers still face a huge pay discrepancy versus those doing the same role in neighbouring authorities, going as high as a difference of £7,000 in extreme cases. There’s also the obvious problem of that 4% raise being almost entirely wiped out by inflation within a year.

Instead, workers need to continue to press their advantage and fight to get their compensation bought into line with their neighbours; A demand that Serco will bitterly oppose as their profits come directly from the wages of those under their employ. If Serco won’t listen, then this battle needs to be brought to the local Labour council to finally put the interests of those in our community above that of the profits of the multinationals. If the council won’t do that, then they need to be challenged at the ballot box – which is what the Socialist Party will be doing this May!

Dudley Library Workers Fight Back

Outsourcing is the scourge of public services. It is the twisted idea that a company with no ties to the community could step in and do a better job than the public sector. That is demonstrably false. Library workers in Dudley, in the West Midlands, are the latest victims.

Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) is known for low-balling contracts, and then gutting pay and conditions. They are a ‘social enterprise’, but happily implement dodgy zero-hour or near-zero-hour contracts.

GLL will not hesitate to pay under the national living wage. Some staff report being paid under the national minimum wage.

They regularly refuse pay rises that match inflation. And understaffing puts immense strain on the workforce. The money they are paid to supposedly provide public library services is used to prop up their failing leisure business.

But the trade unions are fighting back. Unite and Unison organised a public meeting on 29 July via Zoom. Onay Kasab, a Unite officer in London, outlined the tactics used against GLL in the past – picketing their national headquarters, and letting their partners know about the despicable company that they work with. Strike action by the workers can force GLL back.

Onay also made it clear, rather than privatising, local authorities can legally pass needs-based, no-cuts budgets. They can then use reserves and borrowing powers to fill the funding gaps in the short term, while campaigning to win back the money from central government.

Sandwell Leisure Trust Workers Strike Back

On the 25th of June 2021 Unison members working for Sandwell Leisure Trust organised a strike at a number of leisure centres across the borough. Their grievance was one we’ve heard too much over the last 6 months: fire and re-hire. The new contracts being imposed by the trust would see a two year pay freeze and staff being taken out of nationally agreed terms and conditions for local government workers. This is despite the trust having maintained £4m of reserves during the pandemic! In solidarity, a number of Socialist Party members made their way down to the strikes with supplies and support for the striking workers.

The pickets but grew with impassioned activists throughout the day. Over three sites (Portway Lifestyle Centre, Tipton Leisure Centre and Smethwick Swimming Baths), workers took up their placards and were met with a favourable public response, with many of them refusing to attend the centres that day in support.

They also received a visit from Dudley TUC and Labour Councillor Kerrie Carmichael. Which is convenient because the Labour controlled Council for this area could put some real pressure on fixing this dispute – but will they? Last year the council offered SLT an emergency payment which was declined, but the unions want these services brought back in house to ensure a living wage for the staff.

While SLT workers are represented by both Unison and the GMB, allegedly the GMB leadership were unable to muster up enough support to even attempt a ballot to strike of their own, a true shame in the face of what is clearly an attempt at dismantling the rights we’ve fought so hard for over the years. It’s now more than ever that we need union leadership to step up and truly begin to organise for their members to combat these underhanded tactics being brought to bear against them by unscrupulous employers. Unison made fantastic headway in this fight on Friday, but this ugly chapter in our history is far from over.

Vote TUSC in the Tividale By-election!

A by-election has been called for the Tividale council seat for Thursday 15th July. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be standing to offer an alternative to pro-cuts Labour and Tory councillors.

Unlike Tory-lite Labour councillors, socialist councillors would resist Tory austerity instead of passing on savage cuts. we would be a voice for local people against austerity, greedy landlords, privatisation and closures. If councils put up a fight and set no cuts budgets, winning support from workers and the trade unions, they could force another Tory U-turn and win the funding our communities need.

We’ll be using this election campaign to help publicise the struggles of workers at Sandwell Leisure Trust against fire and rehire and the council’s refuse workers fighting Serco for safe working conditions, as well as highlighting the threat to our green spaces.

We’re holding an open meeting at 2pm on Sunday 11th July at the Twydale Avenue entrance to Tividale Park – come along to hear more about what a socialist councillor would do differently.

Promoted by Nick Hart at 59 Stanmore Road, Birmingham on behalf of Richard Gingell.

Labour In Crisis, Tories Triumphant. Where Next?

After the results from the elections on the 6th May, which saw the Tories strengthen their grip on Walsall and Dudley councils and the West Midlands Mayorality and make gains in Sandwell and Wolverhampton, the Labour Party crisis continues.

Kier Starmer and his supporters blame the outcome in Hartlepool and elsewhere on left policies and not distancing themselves from Corbyn enough. How should the left of Labour and the trade union leaders respond? How can socialists prevent further disenfranchisement of the working class, youth and previous Corbyn supporters?

Check out the latest article from the Socialist Party looking at what’s behind the results of last week’s elections and the next steps for socialists:

Affordable Housing, Not Environmental Destruction!

The Friends of Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve recently contacted Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate for Oldbury Richard Gingell about plans to redevelop part of the site adjacent to a hazardous waste lagoon containing white phosphorus. What follows is an edited version of Richard’s response:

Once you look at a map it becomes immediately obvious that the Oldbury ward is densely populated. Sheepwash and the land the other side of the canal sits as a bastion of beauty in a town filled to bursting point. Funnily enough the council HQ is in our ward, complete with one of the biggest car parks I’ve ever seen situated about 50 meters to their north west, with a nice big dilapidated industrial estate another 10-20 meters further north which would have excellent transport links. Why are these not being developed? 

I’m not opposed to building quality housing for people to live in but this scheme is almost the punchline of some cruel joke. Destroying this vital space and ruining the lives of those around it would be a completely inappropriate course and make no mistake, I would oppose it vehemently.

The fact that the council is considering this, even after monumental opposition from the community really speaks to how broken our local politics has become. Workers have been left behind by our politicians, too busy furthering their own careers to stop and look at the trail of misery left in their wake, reducing us to nothing more than an expense on a balance sheet.TUSC stands for a mass programme of quality, affordable public housing to meet the crisis of homelessness and overcrowding we see in our communities today. There are many brownfield sites across Sandwell and the wider Black Country which could be used to achieve this.

The problem? They’re currently in the hands of large developers who want to “land bank” now in order to extract maximum profit later, often with public money funding the initial costs. We say it’s time for councils to use their powers to take over these sites to build for public need, not private greed!This is why I’m standing for TUSC. The other parties either have never cared for us. TUSC provides us with an alternative to let them know that we are not expenses, we are people, and we will be heard.

For anybody reading this: If you’re sick of our councils thinking nothing of our suffering, if you’re sick of companies treating us little more than cattle with fire and rehire schemes, if you’re sick of the already exorbitantly wealthy becoming wealthier while those around you endure crushing austerity, seemingly never able to do more than survive, join us. Vote TUSC. These are our communities and it’s time we took them back.

Come and find out more at the Black Country TUSC Public Zoom Meeting – 7pm Monday 3rd May

Meeting ID: 883 6533 2400 – click here to register in advance

This post promoted by Nick Hart at 59 Stanmore Road Birmingham B16 9SU on behalf of Sandwell and Dudley TUSC candidates and Joshua Allerton at 84 Blackburn Avenue Wolverhampton WV6 9LQ on behalf of himself.

Standing Against Council Cuts

10 years of cuts to services have left the Black Country close to breaking point. Year after year, Labour councillors in Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley have passed on millions of pounds in Tory cuts, axing thousands of jobs in the process.

Labour councillors in Sandwell have carried out more than £70m in cuts, axing over 1000 jobs in the process.

As well as the closure of the borough’s only full-time arts venue, The Public, libraries are now running on a skeleton staff reliant on volunteers. The bins have been outsourced to Serco, leading to problems for residents and the workforce alike. And now Sandwell Leisure Trust are trying to fire and rehire leisure centre staff on worse terms and conditions.

Meanwhile in Wolverhampton we have seen nothing but budget cuts and tax rises year after year, and looking at what the Labour-run council have planned for the next few years nothing is going to change soon. A further £15 million of cuts is planned for 2021/22 and by 2024 an additional £30m will be added to that figure.

It’s clear that the UK isn’t broke. Last year, big businesses in the UK have increased their reserves by £118bn. Serco have pocketed £37bn of government money to run a test and trace scheme that isn’t fit for purpose.

Instead of bailouts for the super-rich, this money should be spent on confronting the problems facing Sandwell and elsewhere. Investment in genuinely affordable housing, services for young people and decently paid jobs to combat unemployment.

A council that stood up to central government and built a campaign to demand the necessary funding could force yet another U-turn on the Tories. Labour won’t fight for these things – we need socialist candidates who will!

That’s why Socialist Party members across the country are standing in this May’s elections as part of the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition. We’ll be campaigning for councils to set no-cuts budgets based on the needs of their towns and cities, and demand the kind of money that’s been thrown at big businesses on the back of the pandemic is instead used to fund jobs, homes and services.

In The Black Country, your TUSC candidates will be:

Sandwell

Cradley Heath and Old Hill – Cammilla Mngaza

Oldbury – Richard Gingell

Wednesbury North – Gareth Knox

Dudley

St Thomas – Nicola Fisher

Wolverhampton

Oxley – Joshua Allerton

Come and find out more at the Black Country TUSC Public Zoom Meeting – 7pm Monday 3rd May

Meeting ID: 883 6533 2400

This post promoted by Nick Hart at 59 Stanmore Road Birmingham B16 9SU on behalf of Sandwell and Dudley TUSC candidates and Joshua Allerton at 84 Blackburn Avenue Wolverhampton WV6 9LQ on behalf of himself.

Socialist Party Launches Black Workers Charter

Racism exists in all aspects of the lives of black and Asian people in the UK. The recent global movement around Black Lives Matter (BLM), sparked by the brutal murder of George Floyd, revealed the depth of anger against it.

In Wolverhampton and across the UK last summer, numerous mass protests saw hundreds and thousands of mainly working-class young people, from all backgrounds, coming onto the streets to demand justice for black people brutally murdered by the police, and to express opposition to racism.

The black and Asian group of the Socialist Party is producing a Black Workers’ Charter to start a discussion about the demands needed to fight for the rights of black and Asian people, and what programme is needed to end racial discrimination.

You can hear more about the demands in the charter in this recent episode of our podcast: