Monthly Archives: June 2011

J30 Mass Strikes in Photos

(c) Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications

Thursday 30th June (dubbed J30) saw mass strikes around the UK from NUT, ATL, UCU and PCS Unions over pensions.  In Birmingham we also had UNISON members striking – council workers out because of pay cuts and changes to conditions, and Connexions members out over job cuts.  With hundreds of pickets, 14 feeder demos and the main strike rally & march, there is far too much to cover in a word report, so here are pictures from the day (A second post of pictures is found here

Pickets

Selly Oak Library

Norfolk House

Central Library

City Centre House

EHRC

Victoria Square House

Hamstead Hall Secondary School

Handsworth Leisure Centre

Redfern Fleet and Waste Depot

Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts

Weather Oak Day Centre picket line

Northfield Demo

Strike Rally


8,000 people on the March

Speakers

I’m afraid I don’t recognise most of these people, and I wasn’t there this afternoon – so if anyone can fill in the blanks, I’d be grateful 🙂 – Just tell me in a comment

Rhiannon Lockley, Halesowen College UCU

Caroline Johnson - Birmingham Unison

Kevin Courtney - NUT

People

Contributors

With thanks to everyone for the photos:
Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications (all the ones with GD in the filename, if you hover your cursor over an image) More of his photos here and here

Chris Hughes from Strichley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts
Sue Thomas
Sharon McCourt
Fiona Rachell
Edward Bauer

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Birmingham Residents Speak Out in Support of The Strikes

Birmingham residents and public service users speak out in support of trade unions taking strike action tomorrow, as a ComRes poll shows support for public sector workers

Birmingham against the Cuts gives 100% support to today’s public sector strikes.

Spokesperson Matt Raine said,

It’s disgraceful that staff delivering vital public services in our Schools, jobs centres, nursery’s, nursing homes and hospitals are having their pensions cut and being made to retire at up to 68. These proposals disproportionally affect low paid women workers. The Public Sector workers didn’t cause the economic crisis, the bankers did. These same bankers can retire at 55 on a fat cat pension whilst low paid staff in the public sector will be forced to work to 68. The government should drop these proposals immediately.

A ComRes poll  showed clear public support for the trade unions:

By 49% to 35%, people agree that the workers have a legitimate reason to strike, and people believe, by 46% to 35%, that the Government would be wrong to change public sector pensions if most workers affected oppose them.

A big majority (78%) agree that it is unfair for low paid public employees to pay the price for mistakes made by bankers before the financial crisis, while 12% disagree

Birmingham residents support the strikes.  Sarah Lilley from Woodgate valley said:

As a single working mom of two young children I may have to loose a day’s work, some local nurseries are being closed to support the strikes. I fully support Thursday’s strike action and think the Government need to rethink their approach to pensions and fair pay as well as treating public sector workers better. Why should nursery workers work longer for less pay? Why is it always Public Sector workers that suffer? These are people we count and depend on like our teachers, our nurses etc. The people who play the most important roles in our every day lives. They need to be treated better and have a fair deal.

Claudia Campbell from Balsall Heath said:

I have to sign on every week at a job centre after losing my job last year and now face having my benefits cut. I’m fully behind the job centre staff striking tomorrow, why should the same bankers that made me lose my job get to retire at 55 whilst staff trying to help me get another job are being made to retire at 67 or 68 on a worse pension?

H. Mower from Kingstanding said:

As the parent of a 6 year old whose school will be closed tomorrow I want it to be known that I fully support the actions of the teachers and public service workers who are standing up to defend their pension rights. I don’t want to see teachers being forced to work until they are 67 or 68, how does that help our kids education?

We should all be doing is getting behind the strikes and fighting for a decent pension for all workers. Not trying to erode the pensions of the minority who still have a degree of security in their retirement.

Josh Jones from Erdington said:

As a child of a single parent and user of public services I feel it is vitally important to support the strike action of Public Sector workers against the austerity measures of the ConDem coalition who control both the City Council and Parliament. I know that these cuts are going to hit hardest the most vulnerable, like my family and the staff that provide these services. The proposed cuts to children’s services and leisure facilities will lead to the closures of youth groups, libraries and swimming pools and will damage the mental and physical well being of our most important resource, children.

These are just a few residents, and we need to show the strikers that this city is behind them as they seek to defend our services and their jobs, pay, conditions and/or pensions by taking direct action against this government and their austerity agenda.  Today could be the biggest day yet in the struggle against the cuts, so make sure you get out and show your support by visiting a picket line, joining a demo and/or going to the strike rally at 12 noon in Victoria Square.

This page has a map showing the location of all the demos & rallies, and some of the picket lines.  If you can’t see something close to you, go down to your nearest Job Centre or Leisure Centre where there is a high chance there will be a picket early in the morning.

(c) Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications

If you work in the city centre, spend your lunchtime at the strike rally in Victoria square, which assembles at 12noon and will march around the city centre from 12:30 before returning to Victoria Square for a rally.  There will be national and local speakers from all the unions involved in the strikes.

Today is J30. Today we strike for the alternative.

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Final preparations for J30

Tommorow sees mass public sector strikes, and Birmingham will see some of the largest strikes, as teachers and civil servants are joined by council workers and connexions to strike for the alternative.

Over the last few days, final preparations have taken place for the hundreds of pickets, demos and rallies that will happen tomorrow. I have been trying to get as much information as possible and map out the actions so you know where you can go – at the moment there are over 70 actions listed around Birmingham, but this is by no means a complete list.
Have a look at the map to see what is happening near you, join a picket line in the morning (if there’s none shown near you, I’ve probably just missed it – PCS should be out at all Job Centre’s, and UNISON council workers will probably be picketing all the leisure centres).
Join one of the UNISON demos at 10am, UCU at Bournville College at 9:15, Connexions on Broad Street at 10:45 or the rallies in Wolverhampton and Stourbridge which will all converge on Victoria Square at 12noon for a huge regional strike rally, with national and local speakers from all the unions and groups involved.

Over the last few days, unions and activists have been working hard to build Thursdays’ events, and to take the argument for the alternative to parents, members of the public and of course the workers themselves.
From door-to-door leafletting and street stalls to the Unite The Resistance meeting last night, hard work has been going to make sure that tomorrow is a huge carnival of resistance to the ConDem’s austerity agenda, and the next stage in the struggle against cuts after March 26th’s March for the Alternative.

At the Unite The Resistance meeting last night, which close to 100 people attended, we heard from Alan Whittaker – past president of UCU – who spoke about how much teachers will be losing if the pension changes come in. For a teacher aged 25, the total loss over 25 years of retirement will be nearly £300,000.  Even for those nearing retirement, the loss will be in the tens of thousands of pounds.

Alan told us how in 2007 the teachers pension scheme was audited and was in good stead, and how there is no reason other than ideology to make the changes to pensions the government are proposing.

Talking about the anti-cuts movment, he said

This Thursday we are going to see [the British revolt] come to life with a vengeance

Sue Bond – Vice President of PCS spoke next, continuing from Alan, saying that since March 26th there has been talk about what next, and that tomorrows action is what is next:

On Thursday, we are sending a message to the government that we will not pay for a crisis we did not cause

She told us how both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee say that civil service pensions are both affordable and sustainable – much like the teachers pensions, and that money saved will not go to make pensions affordable in the future, but will be going to pay off the deficit that was not caused by civil servants.

Sue then outlined some of the alternatives that are supported by PCS and the TUC – closing the tax gap (£120bn of tax avoidance, evasion and uncollected tax each year – enough to cover the whole of the deficit) & investment in jobs and growth (in particular green jobs in the manufacturing sector).

Calling for unity, and crediting the students and UK Uncut for inspiring the cuts movement and the unions to take action, see said that the private sector should not be divided from the public sector – “we want quality pensions for all”, and called for everyone to “rise like Lions and win”, finishing by saying

We defend every single job and oppose every single cut

Caroline Johnson from Birmingham City Council UNISON talked of the devastating changes the council are trying to force onto council workers.  She told us how people are facing huge pay cuts and also savage changes to conditions, which mean the council will be able to tell them to work any job on their pay grade, at any location in the city, at any times (including evening, weekend and unsociable hours).

Sheila, a care assistant currently earning £18,404 will lose £4,741.  Aleena, a part-time cleaner earning just £3,087 will lose a whopping £847.  Donna, a home care assitant on £14,829 will see her pay cut by £2,210 and Jeanette, who is part-time, earning £10,168 will lost £4,453.  Meanwhile, those who are above a grade 4 will not see their pay cut at all – in fact the only thing they are going to lose is their car parking space.

These pay cuts will only save £10m from the council budget so it’s not about saving money – the council spent £60million last year on private sector consultants – so called “experts” who come in to advise on “savings” (otherwise known as advising the council on how to give more money to private sector companies like Capita).  These pay cuts and condition changes are about setting the council’s services up for privatisation.

Calling for support for the council workers, Caroline said:

We are losing all this, and our pensions

She said she was very pleased to be striking alongside other unions on Thursday, that their members are concerned about going it alone, but they know that over the summer they will have to do that.  She does not think the council will back down easily and anticipates further strikes over the summer and autumn to prevent the imposition of this disgusting contract in November.

Finally, Kevin Courtney from NUT spoke, he briefly mentioned pensions but decided not to cover the same grounds as Alan Whittaker UCU, and instead talked about how we are all in this together:

People were all in the same boat in the titanic, but if you were in first class you got on a lifeboat.  If you were in steerage you drowned

Like other speakers, Kevin talked about tax avoidance, calling Philip Green (who in 2005 paid his wife £1.2billion, avoiding £285million in tax) “astonishingly avaricious”.  He said that the pensions fight is a dispute that teachers can win, and that if we do score a victory it will change the dynamic of the anti-cuts movement.

He said that the government has completely lost the confidence of the teaching proffesion, pointing out that ATL have never balloted for strike action in 125 years, but they got an 83% vote for strike, and the fact that a heads union will ballot for strike shows how badly the government have misjudged the mood of the teachers.  He also said that this could not just be about teachers for them, but about all public sector pensions.

Saying that “the cuts are completely without justification”, Kevin explained how in negotiations, the government would not justify their position.  When asked why the pensions are changing from RPI to CPI, the government simply said “we think it is appropriate” without explaining why it is appropriate, or why they will use RPI for student loans.  He said the government produce no arguments – that this is simply an attack on public sector workers.

Kevin finished by saying that this is a choice between whether you give in or whether you fight

On this Thursday we start the fight to defend our pensions and to strike for the alternitve to cuts and job losses

There was then time for discussion from the floor, and people were keen to link up the strikes to the wider fights against cuts, austerity and neo-liberalism.  Various things were mentioned, including the decision by Connexions to join the strike on Thursday, and the demonstrations that will take place for the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham (18th Sept) and the Tory conference in Manchester (2nd Oct).

This Thursday, the fight back continues – what started with the Tory conference march in Birmingham in October last year, and was given a huge boost by the student demonstrations in November and December, and groups like UK Uncut, through the March for the Alternative, local council cut and mayday demonstrations and will not just continue but grow and spread tomorrow.  J30 will be a date to remember.

All photos (c) Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications.  More photos from the Unite The Resistance meeting can be seen here

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Photos from todays’ Welcome for David Cameron

When we found out this morning that David Cameron would be visiting Birmingham to speak at the LGA conference (which has Nick Clegg tomorrow), we felt that this visit couldn’t go un-noticed and hurriedly put out a call for anyone who could to come down to the ICC at 3pm – Cameron was due to speak at 3:45pm.

Obviously this talk had been kept quiet – he was listed as “a senior cabinet minister” on the website – as they knew that we would be out to welcome him in even bigger numbers if we had more warning.

Around 50 people made it out to show resistance to the ConDems – a great turnout for a demo called at 8am for just 7 hours later (and on a weekday)

All photos (c) Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications – more photos can be found here

 

ITV Central News report covering the demo (not sure how long it’ll be available on their website)

 

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UNISON Connexions workers to join J30 Strikes

Connexions workers in Birmingham will join council workers, teachers and civil servants on Thursday for a day of mass strikes.  They have already held half-day strikes over the past few months over office closures and redundancies to a service which provides careers advice to young people, at a time when youth unemployment is rising (it’s at around 20% nationally, and probably higher than that locally) and educational opportunities are being restricted by the scrapping of EMA and the raising of university tuition fees.
The ConDems promised to improve Careers Advice for young people, now we know that from April 2012 they intend to end funding for Careers Guidance and Connexions for young people.  National funding for Careers Advice has been available for over 40 years.  Without any debate or consultation this service is now in grave danger of being removed from our young people.
Careers advice and support should be available face to face for ALL our young people regardless of their ability level, especially at a time in the economic cycle where jobs are hard to find, and a time when politicians are withdrawing support for education and training.

Show your support for Connexions Birmingham.  Our next generation will be left with:

  • No careers advice
  • No EMA
  • No benefit advice
  • Outrageous tuition fees
  • Cuts in FE courses
  • Cuts in University Courses

This government is potentially abolishing the careers service for young people.

Join the Facebook group Connexions services need to unite to fight

Contact your MP and local Councillors; tell Birmingham City Council and the government how important Connexions Birmingham is to YOU. To find out how visit www.writetothem.com

Plan for the day:

7am -10am: Pickets and protest outside all Connexions Centres or bases for Connexions members- Honeywell House, Kings Heath, Broad Street, Northfield and Broad Street.

10-10.30: Everyone heads to the Broad Street office. Transport will be organised by stewards as appropriate. Members are encouraged to share cars wherever possible.

10.45: Connexions UNISON Picket and Demonstration for all members outside Broad Street with Informal speakers

11.15: walk from from Broad Street to Victoria Square, leafleting and petition along the way

12.00: UNISON, NUT, ATL, UCU Mass Rally Victoria Square

I shall be adding these onto our map of activities on J30 shortly.  This is the best place to keep up to date with exactly what is happening (although it will not be a complete list by any means.)

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David Cameron in Birmingham TODAY!

Well done everyone who made this – photo’s from the event can be seen here – around 50 people made it down on less that 7 hours notice, so well done.. following is the original post calling the event:

 

We’ve just found out that David Cameron is speaking at the Local Government Association Conference TODAY!

We’ll be there from 3pm to welcome him to our city.

We know it is short notice, but if you can make it down, please do.. the tories and lib dems need to know that whereever they go there are people who oppose them and who will resist the cuts that they are choosing to implement.

The LGA conference is at the ICC on Broad Street, we will be outside the Centenary Square entrance.

 

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Unite the Resistance – J30 Meeting

On Tuesday, there will be a public meeting, called by representatives of UCU, NUT and PCS whose unions will be on strike on Thursday, along with ATL and UNISON.

Speakers at the meeting include:

Kevin Courtney – Deputy General Secretary of NUT

Sue Bond – PCS Vice President

Alan Whittaker – UCU Past President.

The meeting runs from 7:30pm at the council house, and everyone who wants to help to make June 30th the biggest day so far in the struggle against cuts and the austerity agenda, and to help fight for public services and the alternative, is welcome to attend.

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