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:

New Year, Same Struggles

The world was united in misery in 2020. Too many deaths from the pandemic, job losses, pay cuts and poverty were the experience in virtually every country on the planet. Britain, as the year ends, is leading the world in a new surge in the virus; with the highest ever level of recorded infections.

None of this was accidental. In this article Socialist Party General Secretary Hannah Sell untangles what went on in the last 12 months with Covid, the Starmer counter-revolution within Labour, Tory wrangles over Brexit and more, and how the continuing crisis created by the pandemic can be combatted in 2021.

Watch The Socialism 2020 Rally

This year’s edition of The Socialist Party’s annual Socialism weekend brought together over 1,000 participants to take part in 38 zoom workshops over a period of four days, discussing themes of “After Corbyn”, “Smash Racism”, Trotskyism, Marxism, and more.

Although the rallies and workshops addressing the unprecedented political, economic, environmental and health crises had to be online only, people left feeling like they had been in real discussions with real people about a real way forward.

Videos of the workshop introductions will be published to the Socialist Party Youtube channel in the coming days and weeks. But in the meantime you can watch footage of our Saturday evening rally back now.

Speakers included Socialist Party General Secretary Hannah Sell,  Howie Hawkins, Green Party US presidential candidate; student activist Bea Gardner; leading trade unionists Hugo Pierre and Howard Beckett, and anti-racist activist Isai Priya.

Wolverhampton City Council Threaten Further Cuts

After cuts of £235m already since 2010, Wolverhampton City Council are now threatening a further £23m reduction in services as part of next year’s budget.

Though the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for emergency funding for everything from homelessness to PPE has damaged the council’s balance sheet, this crisis has not come out of the blue. As we reported back in March, the council was already threatening cuts of this scale before Covid-19 entered the equation.

The Labour councillors who have presided over a decade of cuts claim that, unless they receive further emergency funding from central government on top of the £26.1m already provided earlier this year, they will have no choice but to implement further austerity.

But as The Socialist Party has said all along, councillors have a choice. A refusal to implement further cuts could be used to build support to win the funding needed not just to balance the budget but to provide the City with the public services it needs.

Just look at the support for the limited stand taken by Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester over funding for wages and small businesses in the event of further lockdown restrictions there.

Imagine if Labour councils took, and had taken from the start, an approach of setting budgets based on the needs of their communities, not just for Covid related support but public services in general which have been decimated under their watch in the last 10 years.

Campaigns could be built among workers, pensioners, parents, school students and other service users to demand the extra funding needed from central government. The approach taken by Liverpool City Council in the 1980s under the leadership of the Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party provides a clear example of how this could be done.

If Labour councillors refuse to stand up and fight, then we will. The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition is currently making preparations to stand next May against cuts making councillors, no matter what colour rosette they wear.