Around 100 people attended the public meeting, chaired by Sandra Carter from GMB, held by Birmingham Against the Cuts yesterday (26th may).
Jack Dromey – Labour MP for Erdington – was the first speaker, and he spoke about a broad range of cuts happening around the region due to the £212million council budget cuts this year. He talked about cuts to social care, telling us about meeting some people who were going to have their care withdrawn and how “the stories were truly heartbreaking”. He also mentioned the victory in the court which should prevent some of the care being withdrawn for now at least.
Amongst other cuts he mentioned the closure of Advantage West Midlands, saying
It is an act of economic madness to abolish an organisation that for every £1 invested produced £8.14 in wealth
His sternest vitriol was reserved for the bankers, who continue to profit at the expense of ordinary people, and the coalition administrations both nationally and in Birmingham.
He finished calling for people to fight back, particularly against the idea that there is no alternative (that he has dubbed TINA) and the kick them out – of Birmingham in 2012 and national government in 2015.
The next speaker was Doug Morgan from NUT, filling in for Alex Kenny. Doug spoke passionately about the ballot for strike action and the need for a yes vote, citing strikes in Tower Hamlets and Camden which have won small victories recently.
He spoke of the need to continue action against the government and said that
March 26th was not the end of the movement. It was the beginning of the end of this government
He said that the 3oth June being a huge strike, and that it was important to call for a larger movement on the day, and that he is expecting to see 10,000 people on the streets of Birmingham.
The NUT will be balloting on pensions, and Doug debunked some myths about “gold=plated” public sector pensions.. I think he said that the average was around £4,000 / year (Doug, I hope you read this and can let me know if I’ve remembered wrong because for some reason I didn’t write this down!).. and told us that these pensions – which he described as ok, were the only thing holding private sector pensions (“rubbish”) up at all – if public sector workers pensions are reduced there will be less pressure on the private sector to keep theirs where they are, let alone make them better.
He also said that attacks on public servants were attacks on public services and so everyone should support the strikes, and called for unity between the private and public sectors.
David Hughes from Unison was next up, talking about the upcoming ballot for strike action over contract changes at Birmingham City Council.
This council is intending to slash and burn council services in this city
The ballot will be over contract changes that will cut away allowances for evening, night and weekend shift work, meaning that some workers will lose 1/3rd of their pay. Library assistants for instance, will lose £2,700/year.
There are also changes which will allow the council to place someone at any job within their paygrade, no matter what the location or times of work.
He said the cuts would be devastating and quoted a union member who told Unison
Me losing this money will mean me losing my home
Unison are balloting for strike on the 30th June
There was then a slight break in speakers as Pete Duffy, treasurer for Birmingham Against the Cuts made an appeal for donations to help us pay for the meeting, and for the production of leaflets in the run up to June 30th. You can find out how to donate on our website here
Vici Whittall was next up. She works for PCS at the admin office for the West Midlands regional prison service and she spoke about the privatisation of the prison. Birmingham and Featherstone prisons are going to be outsourced to G4S — a private firm.
Pensions under threat, no pay rise for two years and now we’re being privatised
She also said that more prisons are to be market-tested – a process where the prison bids against private sector companies to provide the service.
They will also be balloting for strike action on 30th June – over pensions as part of PCS, rather than over the privatisation of the prison service I think.
On 30th June we will be demonstrating alongside striking workers – see our facebook event
The final speaker was Dr John Lister from Health Emergency, who spoke passionately about the fight to save the NHS, mentioning the 700 bed job losses that we demonstrated about on Monday as well as other cuts around the country.
we were told … they were going to ringfence and protect the NHS. Nothing could be further from the truth
£20bn “efficiency savings” means cuts of 4% every year for 4 years – something that Dr Lister said had never been done anywhere in the world. He also told us that the chair of Monitor (a new organisation setup to promote competition within the NHS) has said he thinks it will need to be £30bn.
He also told us of cuts to community mental health care in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, where 50% of staff – 100 posts – are going to go. Of those 100 posts, 8 are admin or managerial – 92 are frontline job cuts. He described this as a
Brutal, vicious cut that will wreck the lives of vulnerable people
He spoke of how cuts to backroom staff took away the people the frontline staff need support from to be able to do their jobs.
Amongst other cuts he mentioned that Primary Care Trusts want to cut hospital usage by 15% (with A+E usage wanting to drop by 40%!).
Alongside the cuts is Lansleys health bill. and Dr Lister sums up his feelings to that by saying
I don’t want to see Lansley’s bill substantially changed, I want to see it substantially in the bin, along with Lansley
A new campaign has been launched by people put in touch by 38 degrees for our area – Save our NHS West Midlands. I think many people will be taking action on the NHS – we had a demo on monday, and tomorrow, UK Uncut have a national day of action, with an event in happening in Birmingham at 11am.
I’m sure there will be lots of activity from plenty of groups over the forthcoming months as we seek to kill the bill and stop the cuts that will wreck our NHS.
There was then an unfortunately short time for people to speak from the floor (I’m not sure exactly why but it seems there was some miscommunication between us and the council house as to what time the meeting was to end). Charlie Friel spoke of the connexions strikes, saying they had reduced redundancies from 70 to 35 and stopped compulsory redundancies.
Bob Williams-Findlay from Disabled People Against the Cuts spoke about the attacks of the condem government:
They are creating a new victorina era, where if you can pay you live, if you can’t you die
Richard Hatcher spoke of the attack on the education system from academies, saying that this was a strategy to privatise the education system.
Finally, Simon Furze spoke of the demonstration on 18th September at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham, that it will be a regional demonstration built with the support of anti-cuts groups from around the West Midlands.
If you wanted to say something but were unable to, please make a comment on this post and I’ll link it up on facebook 🙂
Sorry for the lack of pictures..