Well over a hundred people attended the "Save Our Services in Lambeth" meeting hosted by Lambeth local government Unison on 11 June, and agreed to launch a Public Services Not Private Profit campaign to unite the various workers' struggles and anti-cuts initiatives currently taking place in the borough.
Heenal Rajani, Unison convenor for Lambeth housing, outlined the council's latest proposals. Having narrowly "won" a ballot in favour of an ALMO (in fact a substantial majority of tenants either opposed the ALMO or voted "don't know"), the council now wants to give private companies ten year contracts worth £1.2 billion to run housing services. In other words, contractors will be able to line their pockets at the expense of the services provided to tenants and leaseholders, and the wages and conditions of the hundreds of council workers threatened with transfer to the private sector.
This time, tenants are not even being allowed a vote. However, the union will be balloting for industrial action to defend its members, as the spearhead of a political campaign against the privatisation. Speakers from a variety of local campaigns pledged solidarity with the Unison workers in their dispute, as did other workers including Lambeth College UCU (who are currently waging their own fight against cuts).
The other platform speakers were tenants council activist Jean Kerrigan, Alan Walter of Defend Council Housing, Lambeth Pensioners' Association secretary Barbara Glosby and Mark Serwotka of PCS. Serwotka advocated that anti-cuts and other local working-class campaigns should consider standing independent candidates against Labour, a suggestion which received a warm welcome from the floor.
One interesting element of the debate that followed was the response to a suggestion from a member of the right-wing populist English Democrats group that "people should stop banging on about capitalism and the working class. The problem is not capitalism, it's the Labour government." The speaker went on to advocate support for nationalist sectors of British capital. The vast majority of those who spoke disassociated themselves from this view and argued, in one way or another, that it is precisely working-class solidarity that is needed against capitalist attacks.
The meeting agreed to launch an ongoing Public Services Not Private Profit campaign to unite different struggles in Lambeth. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.saveourservices.org.uk