Local Councils

Support the Tower Hamlets strikers

On 6 July, Tower Hamlets Labour council intends to implement a plan, “Tower Rewards”, to sack its entire 4,000-strong workforce — carers, caretakers, children’s centre workers, housing and homelessness workers, refuse workers, cleaners, social workers, teaching assistants and many, many others — and re-employ only those who will accept substantially worse terms and conditions. Key elements include reducing severance pay on redundancy; a longer working week; ending automatic incremental pay progression; cutting shift, premium and overtime payments; and abolishing the flexi scheme. So much for...

NEU and the Tower Hamlets dispute

Tower Hamlets council has re-started the process of imposing a cut in workers' conditions, and Unison has declared strikes on 3, 6, and 7 July. Shamefully, the leadership of Tower Hamlets NEU have demobilised their membership.

We need more class-struggle socialists

Ruth Cashman, who is standing for election to the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group (London region), discusses the future of the left. Part three of three articles. Part one, 'How I Became a Socialist' + part two, 'The irreplaceable strategy of simply keeping going'. The depth of the recession facing us means that the Tories might either force through an enormous amount of new cuts or that they will calculate that such a magnitude of cuts are not worth it. That the economic hit and ensuing social chaos will be too great. Whatever is in store for us, it has been a big failure of the Labour...

Still only 40% of care homes with isolation pay

Almost a third of COVID-19 deaths, over 16,000 people, have occurred in care homes. Careworkers are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as the general public. A little acknowledged but major factor in these carehome deaths is the low pay and insecure employment of careworkers. It is estimated that around 440,000 care workers have no rights to occupational sick pay. If they develop symptoms of Coronavirus or a member of their household develops symptoms, then they are faced with an impossible choice: take time off on Statutory Sick Pay (just £95.85 a week) or continue to work potentially...

“The irreplaceable strategy of ‘simply keeping going’”

Ruth Cashman, who is standing for election to the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group (London region), discusses “holding the line” for militant trade unionism in local government. Part two of three articles. Part one, 'How I Became a Socialist'. Picture, Lambeth Unison's campaign to stop cuts to Local Children's Centres I came into local government, getting a job in the Lambeth Library Service, almost exactly the same time that the government was making lots of cuts (2008). My entire experience of trade union activism has been about dealing with austerity. About six months into the job, the...

£6 billion council gap

Stevenage’s Labour council has threatened to declare bankruptcy. The Local Government Association (an umbrella body for councils) says councils need £6 billion extra from central government this year — if not the full £15 billion taken away from councils since 2010 — to keep basic services going after their extra spending and their loss of income in the pandemic. Labour activists are building a campaign for Labour councillors to unite with unions and communities to fight back. • Check out the campaign online here.

Children at risk

The Observer (7 June) relayed reports from charities that “trafficked and unaccompanied children are going missing in ‘significant’ numbers from the UK’s care system” during lockdown. It says that it is “too early” to estimate figures, but that the government’s move under the Coronavirus Act (via Statutory Instrument 445, 23 April) to remove or weaken councils’ legal obligations on vulnerable children is probably a factor. A report from the IPPR think-tank (4 June) reckons that by the end of 2020, 300,000 more children will be living in poverty because of the effects of the lockdown and job...

Spread call for public ownership of care

One hundred and fifty union and Labour activists have signed the statement for public ownership and provision of social care initiated by the Safe and Equal campaign. That includes a wide range of union officers and activists from care, health and local government, and many dozens of Labour Party activists including ten CLP Secretaries. There is wide and growing support in the labour movement and beyond for public ownership of care, but it will not happen without a serious campaign. We need to think how such a campaign can happen. Getting a lot more support and publicity for this statement is...

The politics and limits of tracing

The government, and many of its critics too, cite “test-trace-isolate” as almost a cure-all to control the virus while still easing the lockdown. The labour movement cannot claim expertise on the details. But we must demand that the operation be accompanied by full isolation pay for all, and run as a public-service operation, by public-sector workers on good public-sector terms, not contracted-out. The idea is people with symptoms like Covid-19 are promptly tested. If they test positive, then they’re asked to list all the people outside their household with whom they’ve been in less-than-two...

Make the schools safe!

The government’s aspiration to partially open schools on 1 June is likely to be largely unrealised. While we all want children back in schools, as soon as safe enough, that is good. Success in resisting unsafe reopening is dependent on union strength on the ground. We must fight for rank-and-file school worker control over the strategy, locally and nationally.

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