Monthly Archives: February 2012

Day of Action Over Leisure Services Privatisation

As we reported on Monday, Birmingham City Council have begun a process that could see a £200m outsourcing of leisure services to private, profit seeking, companies.

This affects people all over the city, and Handsworth Against the Cuts were out on Saturday, raising awareness and gathering signatures on a petition to keep these services in house.

Outsourcing and privatisation are all too often used as a way to cut costs at the expense of services or through changes to staff pay and conditions, rather than as a way to improve the services provided.
As the council seek to make £100m of additional cuts over the following year, we can be sure that this is being used as a way to cover some of that, or at least it will be if we let it.

On Saturday 10th March, Birmingham Against the Cuts will be co-ordinating local groups and individuals around the city to petition at leisure centres that are under threat.
As we receive confirmation of times, this list will be updated. If you live near one of these centres, or use it regularly, go and join them, or tell us that you will be there between certain times, and we will put that on this list and try to get people to join you.
A city-wide petition is being finalised, and will be available to download and print closer to the day, along with leaflets and posters.

— Alexander Stadium,
— Beeches Pool,
— Billesley Indoor Tennis Centre,
— Castle Vale Pool,
— Cocks Moor Wood Leisure Centre,
— Erdington Pool,
— Fox Hollies Leisure Centre,
— Handsworth Leisure Centre, 11am on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th Handsworth Against the Cuts
— Harborne Pool and Fitness Centre,
— Kingstanding Leisure Centre,
— Linden Road Leisure Centre,
— Moseley Road Pool: 11am onwards, Friends of Moseley Road Baths
— Nechells Sports Centre,
— Newtown Pool,
— Northfield Leisure Centre 11am onwards, Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts
— Saltley Leisure Centre,
— Shard End Leisure Centre,
— Small Heath Leisure Centre,
— Shenley Court,
— Sparkhill Pool and Leisure Centre, 11am-1pm Sparkhill & Springfield Against the Cuts
— Stechford Cascades,
— Stockland Green Leisure Centre,
— Tiverton Road,
— Wyndley Leisure Centre.

Please note that this is not a complete list – the tender document says that these are included, but does not limit privatisation to just these facilities – so if your local centre is not listed here, do not think you are safe.

Email us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com or just turn up if your centre already has times listed.

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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Erdington Against the Cuts, Handsworth Anti-Cuts Group, Kings Heath & Moseley Against the Cuts, Sparkhill & Sparkbrook Against the Cuts, Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts, Stockland Green Against the Cuts

Today Birmingham City Council Will Vote Through £100m Of Cuts – Here’s What We Won And What We Are Losing

Today from 2pm, Birmingham City Council meet to debate and vote on the budget for 2012/13. Over the last 6 months, consultations have been ignored or sidelined by the ConDem coalition locally, in favour of rushing through as many cuts as possible before they lose control of the council at the local elections in May.
With over 200 pages and £100m of cuts being made, we’re not going to list everything here. The complete budget is available here. If anyone wants to tell us about a particular cut that is going to affect you, or that you are aware of, please do so, either by email (BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com or by commenting on this post.
Many of the cuts announced still have consultation processes to go through or complete. Through the consultation process and alongside lobbying, demonstrations and where applicable strikes, with the support of the people who need the services being cut, we can stop some of the cuts.
But if we are to stop all of the cuts, then we need to be changing things at both national and local level, arguing for the alternative to cuts, and resisting cuts through action on the streets.

Anti-cuts and anti-austerity events take place every week in and around Birmingham. We do our best to list all of them on our upcoming events page. Through mass action we can change things – right now the workfare schemes are in huge trouble, and the Health and Social Care Bill (NHS reforms) has gone from looking like a lost battle to fully on the rocks, as healthcare professionals line up to condemn the bill.
Join Us.

Here is some of what has been won and lost in this years budget.

1,200 jobs are expected to be lost – in addition to the 4,800 that have already gone as £100m gets slashed from Birmingham City Council’s budget – taking the total to over £300m. Just over half of the £500m Barclays are being made to repay from a tax avoidance scheme.

Adults and Communities

118 jobs will be going in home care, as the council cuts back the services to only be available for people immediately upon leaving hospital. Anyone else receiving home care will be forced into the private sector.
269 jobs will be lost in adult education. It is not at all clear what this will actually mean, or where the jobs are. However, at times of rising unemployment, it can never be good to lose the people who might be able to help retrain and give people skills.

Shelforce

80 jobs to be lost as this business which provides supported employment for disabled adults, and until recently produced a profit for the council, is still looking to be closed. The fight to keep it open and get the council to invest in the business so it can return to profitability continues, and this is not definitely lost yet.

Homes and Neighbourhoods

Library services are being cut. No libraries will close, but most are seeing their hours reduced.

Handsworth library – originally earmarked to only be open 3 days per week, will now open 5 days per week after a campaign by local group Handsworth Against the Cuts. They were not able to restore Friday openings unfortunately.

As reported yesterday, Leisure services are to be privatised in a £200m outsourcing operation. Handsworth Against the Cuts began petitioning last week, and we are organising a day of action on Saturday 10th March to build awareness of this move. All our local groups will be arranging petitioning sessions – if you can join them, let us know. If you want to hlep in your area and there is no local group, we have petitions and are making leaflets, and can try to put you in touch with other people in your area.

Children, Young People and Families

100 jobs have been saved, for now, at Connexions (although their budget was already reduced by around 40% last year). The council have agreed to continue the service, hoping that they will be able to raise money by selling their skills into schools. Connexions used to supply services directly to schools from their budget, but now if schools want careers advisers, they have to pay for them out of their budget.
This is an example of how the government is cutting education budgets by the back door, but it is also an example to show us why we need to oppose all cuts – this move is simply looking to shift the cut from the council budget to the schools budgets. Only by ending the austerity agenda and implementing alternatives to the cuts can we truly defeat this cut.

I have saved the most maddening cut for last.
£6.7m is to be cut from the Childrens’ placement budget. This covers looking after children who are taken into care. It is also an area that is still under consultation, in part thanks to the campaigns that have saved Charles House and Cambourne House.
Two other houses have been earmarked as facing closure: 56 Millmead Road and Mulberry House.
Closing care homes means needing to rehouse the children who live there.
The council say this will be done by increasing fostering.
But at the same time they are cutting the adoption and fostering budget by £1m.
The alternative is to pay the private sector or other local authorities to look after the children concerned. Last time the council closed Childrens homes, it increased costs by 41%.

Through concerted actions by parents and campaign groups, Charles House and Cambourne House were saved – these were respite homes for disabled children, rather than homes for children in care. Many of the children in care will not have parents who will fight for them. It is up to the residents of Birmingham to ensure that they are properly looked after, and to come together as a community to protect and help some of the most vulnerable citizens, who are also too young to have a voice at the ballot box.

The consultation on the childrens’ placement budget is ongoing. We will be campaigning on this, and we need support – especially if you live near a care home. Please get in touch with us if you want to be involved.

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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts, Handsworth Anti-Cuts Group, Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts

Birmingham City Council Plans to Sell Off Leisure Centres

A group of Handworth Against The Cuts activists did a stall and petition at Handsworth Leisure centre this Sat 25 th Feb. Well over 200 signatures were collected and people took away leaflets and petitions to distribute around their communities. There was anger, concern and astonishment about BCC’s secret plans to sell of all the Leisure Centre.

The petition can be signed inside the Leisure centre, children are encouraged to sign as well!. There is potentially a big campaign possible around this- the leisure centre and free activities are much used and much prized in the area. More campaign stalls and activities are being planned. All are welcome and encouraged to join in!
Contact NoCutsHandsworth@btinternet.com
—–

.Here is BCC’s application in the European Journal:

UK-Birmingham: sports facilities operation services
2012/S 24-039329
Contract notice
Services
Directive 2004/18/EC
Section I: Contracting authority
I.1)Name, addresses and contact point(s)
Birmingham City Council, Corporate Procurement Services
PO Box 10680, Lancaster Circus
Contact point(s): https://in-tendhost.co.uk/birminghamcc
For the attention of: Corporate Procurement Services
B4 7WB Birmingham
UNITED KINGDOM
Telephone: +44 1214648000
Fax: +44 1213037322
Internet address(es):
General address of the contracting authority: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk; http://www.finditbirmingham.gov.uk
Address of the buyer profile: https://in-tendhost.co.uk/birminghamcc
Electronic access to information: http://in-tendhost.co.uk/birminghamcc
Electronic submission of tenders and requests to participate: http://in-tendhost.co.uk/birminghamcc
Further information can be obtained from: The above mentioned contact point(s)
Specifications and additional documents (including documents for competitive dialogue and a dynamic purchasing system) can be obtained from: The above mentioned contact point(s)
Tenders or requests to participate must be sent to: The above mentioned contact point(s)
I.2)Type of the contracting authority
Regional or local authority
I.3)Main activity
General public services
I.4)Contract award on behalf of other contracting authorities
The contracting authority is purchasing on behalf of other contracting authorities: no
Section II: Object of the contract
II.1)Description
II.1.1)Title attributed to the contract by the contracting authority:
Sport and leisure facilities framework.
II.1.2)Type of contract and location of works, place of delivery or of performance
Services
Service category No 26: Recreational, cultural and sporting services
Main site or location of works, place of delivery or of performance: Birmingham UK.
NUTS code UKG31
II.1.3)Information about a public contract, a framework agreement or a dynamic purchasing system (DPS)
The notice involves the establishment of a framework agreement
II.1.4)Information on framework agreement
Framework agreement with several operators
maximum number of participants to the framework agreement envisaged: 4
Duration of the framework agreement
Duration in years: 4
Estimated total value of purchases for the entire duration of the framework agreement
Estimated value excluding VAT: 200 000 000,00 GBP
II.1.5)Short description of the contract or purchase(s)
Through the sport and leisure service Birmingham City Council strives to raise the quality of life and health of its citizens and to enhance its reputation as one of the UK’s leading sporting cities. We want to work with organisations that support the Council’s vision for an excellent leisure service. Birmingham City Council is undertaking a competitive dialogue process to identify organisations to be appointed to a framework agreement. The scope of this framework could comprise a mixture of the following provision in relation to any or all of the City’s leisure related facilities: design, build, repair, refurbish, finance, operate and maintain. All contracts will need to be awarded within the framework period of 4 years but contracts placed under the framework may have a duration of between 10 and 15 years or less where appropriate. The first contract to be awarded through this framework will be the design, build, operate and maintain contract in relation to Sparkhill Pool and Fitness Centre. Under this procurement organisations will be required to participate actively in the economic and social regeneration of the locality surrounding the place of delivery. Accordingly contract performance conditions may relate in particular to social and environmental considerations. TUPE may apply to staff engaged in services which are the subject of contracts awarded under this framework agreement. The Council’s leisure facilities which may be the subject of contracts awarded under the framework include, but are not limited to, the following:
— Alexander Stadium,
— Beeches Pool,
— Billesley Indoor Tennis Centre,
— Castle Vale Pool,
— Cocks Moor Wood Leisure Centre,
— Erdington Pool,
— Fox Hollies Leisure Centre,
— Handsworth Leisure Centre,
— Harborne Pool and Fitness Centre,
— Kingstanding Leisure Centre,
— Linden Road Leisure Centre,
— Moseley Road Pool,
— Nechells Sports Centre,
— Newtown Pool,
— Northfield Leisure Centre,
— Saltley Leisure Centre,
— Shard End Leisure Centre,
— Small Heath Leisure Centre,
— Shenley Court,
— Sparkhill Pool and Leisure Centre,
— Stechford Cascades,
— Stockland Green Leisure Centre,
— Tiverton Road,
— Wyndley Leisure Centre.
The estimated maximum total value of the framework is GBP 200 000 000 which includes the indicative value of contracts up to a maximum of 15 years. This estimate will be subject to the outcome of the competitive dialogue process. Birmingham City Council will be using its e-tendering system (In-tend) for the administration of this procurement process and providers must register with the system to be able to express an interest. The web address is https://in-tendhost.co.uk/birminghamcc.
Registration and use of In-tend is free and all correspondence for this procurement must be via the In-tend correspondence function. However, if you are unable to register with the website please either email us at cps@birmingham.gov.uk or call 01214648000.
II.1.6)Common procurement vocabulary (CPV)
92610000, 92620000
II.1.7)Information about Government Procurement Agreement (GPA)
The contract is covered by the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA): yes
II.1.8)Lots
This contract is divided into lots: no
II.1.9)Information about variants
Variants will be accepted: no
II.2)Quantity or scope of the contract
II.2.1)Total quantity or scope:
II.2.2)Information about options
II.2.3)Information about renewals
II.3)Duration of the contract or time limit for completion
Duration in months: 48 (from the award of the contract)
Section III: Legal, economic, financial and technical information
III.1)Conditions relating to the contract
III.1.1)Deposits and guarantees required:
The Contracting Authority reserves the right to require deposits, guarantees, bonds and/or other forms of appropriate security.
III.1.2)Main financing conditions and payment arrangements and/or reference to the relevant provisions governing them:
This will be included in the tender documents.
III.1.3)Legal form to be taken by the group of economic operators to whom the contract is to be awarded:
Joint and several liability.
No special legal form is required but in the case of group bidders the authority requires that a prime service provider assumes primary liability for the group and that each organisation in the group accepts joint and several liability.
III.1.4)Other particular conditions
The performance of the contract is subject to particular conditions: yes
Description of particular conditions: When executing the contract in the UK the successful tenderer will be required to comply with the recommendations of the code of practice for the elimination of Racial Discrimination and the promotion of Equality of Opportunity in employment published by the Commission for Racial Equality.
The successful tenderer will be required to participate actively in the service related economic, social and environmental regeneration of the locality of and surrounding the place of delivery for the procurement.
Accordingly, tender evaluation and contract performance conditions may relate in particular to social, economic and environmental considerations.
III.2)Conditions for participation
III.2.1)Personal situation of economic operators, including requirements relating to enrolment on professional or trade registers
Information and formalities necessary for evaluating if the requirements are met: As set out in the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
III.2.2)Economic and financial ability
Information and formalities necessary for evaluating if the requirements are met: As set out in the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
Minimum level(s) of standards possibly required: As set out in the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
III.2.3)Technical capacity
Information and formalities necessary for evaluating if the requirements are met:
As set out in the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
Minimum level(s) of standards possibly required:
As set out in the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
III.2.4)Information about reserved contracts
III.3)Conditions specific to services contracts
III.3.1)Information about a particular profession
Execution of the service is reserved to a particular profession: no
III.3.2)Staff responsible for the execution of the service
Legal persons should indicate the names and professional qualifications of the staff responsible for the execution of the service: no
Section IV: Procedure
IV.1)Type of procedure
IV.1.1)Type of procedure
competitive dialogue
IV.1.2)Limitations on the number of operators who will be invited to tender or to participate
Envisaged number of operators: 10
Objective criteria for choosing the limited number of candidates: As detailed in the pre-qualification questionnaire.
IV.1.3)Reduction of the number of operators during the negotiation or dialogue
Recourse to staged procedure to gradually reduce the number of solutions to be discussed or tenders to be negotiated yes
IV.2)Award criteria
IV.2.1)Award criteria
The most economically advantageous tender in terms of the criteria stated in the specifications, in the invitation to tender or to negotiate or in the descriptive document
IV.2.2)Information about electronic auction
An electronic auction will be used: no
IV.3)Administrative information
IV.3.1)File reference number attributed by the contracting authority:
S0034
IV.3.2)Previous publication(s) concerning the same contract
no
IV.3.3)Conditions for obtaining specifications and additional documents or descriptive document
Time limit for receipt of requests for documents or for accessing documents: 12.3.2012 – 17:00
Payable documents: no
IV.3.4)Time limit for receipt of tenders or requests to participate
16.3.2012 – 12:00
IV.3.5)Date of dispatch of invitations to tender or to participate to selected candidates
IV.3.6)Language(s) in which tenders or requests to participate may be drawn up
English.
IV.3.7)Minimum time frame during which the tenderer must maintain the tender
IV.3.8)Conditions for opening tenders
Section VI: Complementary information
VI.1)Information about recurrence
This is a recurrent procurement: no
VI.2)Information about European Union funds
The contract is related to a project and/or programme financed by European Union funds: no
VI.3)Additional information
Organisations wishing to be considered for a tendering opportunity must express their interest on In-tend by no later than 5pm on 12.3.2012 and download the pre-qualification document. This must be completed and uploaded onto In-tend no later than 12 noon on 16.3.2012. The questionnaire provided by the City Council will ask suppliers / service providers to indicate their economic and financial standing, technical ability and appropriate skills, efficiency, experience, reliability and provide satisfactory policy and documentation for race relations, health and safety and sustainability. The information provided in response to this questionnaire will be used as part of a pre-tender evaluation in order to select a shortlist of potential suppliers / service providers to be invited to tender. Where consortia or.
Group of organisations wish to express an interest in this project, each organisation responsible for the provision of requirements will be expected to complete a questionnaire. This tender process will be conducted using BCC’s e-tendering system ‘in-tend’. The portal for this system is https://in-tendhost.co.uk/birminghamcc. Providers must register with the system in order to access documents. Registration and use is free.
VI.4)Procedures for appeal
VI.4.1)Body responsible for appeal procedures
VI.4.2)Lodging of appeals
VI.4.3)Service from which information about the lodging of appeals may be obtained
VI.5)Date of dispatch of this notice:
2.2.2012

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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts, petition

Workfare Campaign Activities in Feb and March

Last nights demo at Tesco on New Street

Over the past week, there has been an explosion of interest in workfare, and the Boycott Workfare campaign we signed up to last month. The campaign has seen lots of high street names withdraw from the scheme entirely (including Waterstones, Sainsbury’s, and TK Maxx), others suspend their involvement (Matalan, Superdrug, Argos) and Tesco seek to change the scheme beyond recognition, offering to pay people on one of the two schemes they take part in – a big step in the right direction but still taking part in the scheme which older people get placed for 8 weeks without pay. Poundland, Burger King and Pizza Hut are all reviewing their involvement, and high profile charities, including Mind, Scope, Oxfam and RSPCA have either withdrawn or confirmed they never took part in these schemes.

Every day another organisation distances itself from the schemes which see benefit claimants forced to work 30 hours/week for companies or lose their benefits for up to 3 years. Currently this is just those on Jobseeker’s Allowance, but with plans to extend this to disability claimants in the Work Related Assesment Group (which means that they might be able to do some kind of work, with the right support, maybe – this group includes terminal cancer patients with more than 6 months to live). There are a number of schemes, and placements range from 4 weeks to 6 months, with disability claimants being told there will be no time limits on their schemes once it starts.

This means that your local Tesco or Poundland could have someone who is dying of cancer working for them for free in the final months of their life.

Meanwhile, the companies are cutting hours, or not replacing staff that leave, knowing that they can make it up with workfare labour. Over Christmas, when extra staff would usually be hired and paid, many stores took advantage of the schemes to cut costs and make more profit for their shareholders.
Tesco made enough profit in 1 day to pay ALL of the people who worked there in 2011 minimum wage for their work.

You can read more about workfare, and why we are supporting Boycott Workfare here.

The backlash to this scheme has well and truly begun. Last night, Right to Work joined in, organising a demo at Tesco on New Street. In Birmingham next week and throughout March there are many events happening to keep the pressure up and get workfare scrapped entirely.

Saturday 25th Feb

Kings Heath, 12-2, Stall and Leafletting outside Poundland on Kings Heath High Street – More Details
Yardley 2:30pm, Demo outside new Tesco Store, on the site of the old Swan pub, meet at Yardley Road Roundabout, B26 1BU, organised by Youth Fight for Jobs.
City Centre, 2pm, demo outside McDonalds on Cherry Street (near Pigeon Park), organised by Right to Work.

There are also plans for stalls in Cotteridge and City Centre, please email us at BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@gmail.com if you can help and we will let you know if and where they are happening.

If you can organise some leafletting in your local high street, or local job centre, you can download and print leaflets from our resources page.

These will be building for the national day of action:

Saturday 3rd March


Boycott Workfare national day of action. Demo at Poundland on Union Street, City Centre Birmingham, from 11:30am-12:30pm. If Poundland have pulled out, we will go to Tesco on New Street. If Tesco have pulled out we will decide on the day where to go – meet at Poundland.
Many other towns and cities around the UK are taking action on the 3rd, so if you are not in Birmingham please have a look here for your local demo, or consider organising one yourself

For accessibility information for all workfare events click here

Wed 7th March

Kings Heath public meeting, 7pm-8pm, All Saints Centre, Kings Heath. Meeting to plan and organise locally to make Kings Heath high street a workfare free zone.
More information

Thursday 29th March

City Centre public meeting, 7pm-9pm, Unite the Union, Transport House, Broad Street More information
To discuss and plan action around Birmingham and the west midlands, or to celebrate if the scheme has collapsed by then!

Because we can win this. But if we are going to we must keep up the pressure. Join us.

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Filed under Events

Militant Action Works – Lessons From Today And 40 Years Ago

Since their election in 2010 the ConDem government have driven through a dramatic series of cuts, privatisation and attacks on working conditions.

The NHS is the most visible drive towards privatisation, with education not far behind. The cuts sweeping local government are not simply the effect of the recession, but an attempt to abolish large areas of public services.

The restructuring of public sector pensions has seen significant resistance, with 750,000 on strike on June 30th and 2,500,000 on November 30th. These 2 days of strikes forced some concessions from
the government, and some unions seized the opportunity to withdraw from future action while negotiations continue. Meanwhile the NUT, PCS and UCU have called a strike on March 28th which will see approaching 1,000,000 on strike.

A serious debate is raging in the trade union movement – how far can we go in resisting the government? Will strikes win further concessions?

The experience from the last week, and from 40 years ago, indicate that determined and militant action can win.

For the last 6 months electricians and construction workers have organised pickets at construction sites around Britain. They have been campaigning against the introduction of a new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) by 7 major construction companies of which Balfour Beatty is the largest. The BESNA would see de-skilling and wage cuts of up to 35% for hundreds of workers.

Every Wednesday morning construction sites from Glasgow to London have been picketed and blockaded by rank and file sparks and their supporters. Hundreds have joined the pickets. Oxford Street has been blocked during the rush hour and last week Park Lane was blocked by sparks protesting outside the Electrical Contractors Association annual dinner.

UNITE the union called a ballot of its members in Balfour Beatty in November. After they returned an 81% vote for strike action Balfour Beatty used a legal challenge to the ballot to nullify it.

In January UNITE re-balloted and their members voted to strike again. Once again Balfour Beatty raised a legal challenge to the ballot but last week a judge threw out the challenge. As the sparks
prepared for a strike Balfour Beatty threw in the towel and abandoned BESNA. Both rank and file sparks and the UNITE leadership are now calling on the remaining 6 companies to abandon BESNA, or face the consequences.

This victory come almost exactly 40 years after the Battle of Saltley Gate, where 30,000 Birmingham engineers struck in support of striking miners, and 10,000 of them marched to reinforce 2,000 miners who were picketing Saltley Coking Works, forcing the police to close the gates and effectively securing victory for the miners.

On Friday 10th February 2012 Birmingham Trades Union Council organised an anniversary rally to celebrate the anniversary. Arthur Scargill spoke at the rally alongside former Yorkshire NUM leader
Ken Capstick, Bob Crow general secretary of the RMT, Tony Burke UNITE assistant general secretary and Norman Goodwin, who had been an engineer and took part in the Battle of Saltley Gate.

With Britain no longer able to claim to be the ‘workshop of the world’ big business and successive Tory and Labour governments tried to make the workers foot the bill with pay restraint. The Tory
government felt that the miners, who hadn’t had a national strike since the defeat of the General Strike in 1926, who be easy to beat.

They hadn’t bargained for 2 things.

Firstly the miners, in particular the Yorkshire miners led by Arthur Scargill and others in the Barnsley Forum, sent out flying pickets from the beginning of the strike. Up to 60,000 miners were involved in picketing 500 key facilities – power stations, docks, coking works.

Secondly the solidarity that was delivered by other unions. Rail workers, unionised lorry drivers and power workers refused to touch coal or any replacement fuels.

Saltley Coking Works was soon the only plant in the country supplying significant coal supplies to industry.

Up to 2,000 miners from the Midlands, Yorkshire and Wales began picketing. 800 police were mobilised for several days to keep the gates at Saltley open.

Arthur Scargill spoke to the Birmingham East AUEW shop stewards and the National Union of Vehicle Builders. Both agreed to call their members out on strike on the 10th.

By 11am 30,000 Birmingham engineers were on strike and 10,000 joined the picketing miners. The police were overwhelmed and forced to close the gates. It was a massive victory for militant action
and solidarity.

We face difficult times. One of the most crucial cuts both the public and private sector are trying to make is labour costs. Both by redundancies and wage restraint workers wages are increasingly under pressure.

There is widespread anger with the government and huge sympathy for anyone who resists them.
The lesson from Saltley Gate 40 years ago, and the sparks last week, is that determined and militant action is the key to victory.

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Filed under strike

Boycott Workfare Meeting March 29th

We were planning to wait until we had confirmed speakers, but with the storm that has blown up around the Tesco permanent nightshift workfare position advertised, we thought it best to make the event announcement now.

Thursday 29th March
7pm-9pm

Unite the Union
Transport House
211 Broad Street
Birmingham
B15 1AY

Boycott Workfare public meeting, in association with Birmingham Trades Council, Birmingham Against the Cuts,IWW West Midlands, Right to Work, Occupy Birmingham, DPAC and Youth Fight for Jobs
Speakers invited from Boycott Workfare, Public Interest Lawyers and USDAW.

With particular thanks to Unite and the lovely people who work there, who have accomdated us, after we decided that the room at the council house would be too small (it was booked before this became a national news story), and other rooms were not available. Carrs Lane was also considered before someone pointed out that the upstairs rooms are not wheelchair accessible.

The Unite building is fully wheelchair accessible, with a lift up to the first floor where the meeting room is, and accessible toilets. Full accessibility information to follow.

The main part of this meeting will be for people to talk about their own thoughts and experiences of workfare, and to discuss taking action to encourage more companies to pull out of the scheme so that it collapses.
Over the last 10 days, Waterstones, Sainsbury’s Co-op, TK Maxx and HMV have all said they will no longer (or have never) used workfare labour. Poundland are reported to be reviewing their involvement in the scheme.
Together we can act to put pressure on the remaining companies to withdraw, and ensure that everyone who works gets paid a proper wage for the job, and that benefit claimants do not get used to undermine paid roles or cover for government cuts.

You can read about why we are supporting Boycott Workfare here, and there is a local meeting in Kings Heath on March 7th.
Additionally, there is a national day of action on Saturday 3rd of March, and we expect to take part in an action on that day, decision will be made tomorrow, so more news next week.

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Filed under Events, Meeting

Victory at Connexions as Unison Campaign Secures Jobs and Services

Over 100 staff at Connexions had good news yesterday after hearing that Birmingham City Council have backed down and withdrawn the threat of redundancies, stating that there will not be any more cuts to this vital service in the coming financial year. We hope that whoever is in power following the council elections in May will provide a continued commitment to Connexions.

Connexions gives help and advice to young people who are unemployed and are looking for work, college or training. They also help young homeless people, pregnant teenage girls and teenage parents.

UNISON argued all along that to make cuts to this service when youth unemployment is at an all-time high and still rising was morally wrong, reckless and irresponsible and finally Birmingham City Council have listened.

UNISON Convenor Charlie Friel said

This is really good news for our members who been put the emotional wringer by this council for over 18 months. It’s a victory for our members, it’s a victory for common sense and it’s victory for the young people of Birmingham.

Graph shows youth unemployment from 1992 to October 2011 - since October, youth unemployment has continued to rise and in January 2012 was at 22%

We are really pleased to hear this news, which has come about through months of campaigning, multiple strike days and media pressure on the council. At a time when youth unemployment is at record levels, it is madness to close the service which helps young people to find work or training.
Youth unemployment nationally stands at 22%, but with Birmingham having some of the highest areas of unemployment in the UK, and being the youngest city with over 1/3rd of people under 25, it is expected that youth unemployment locally is higher.
Of course, this comes too late to save offices in Handsworth (unemployment: 21.7%), Erdington (unemployment: 12.9%) and Kings Heath (unemployment: 12.5%). We wait to hear if the planned closures of offices in Northfield (unemployment: 10.1%) and Yardley (unemployment: 10.4%) will go ahead.
Unemployment rates are for the parliamentary constituency which the office is in, and the data is taken from this parliamentary report from January 2012. Nationally the unemployment rate is around 8.4%, whilst the average for the 9 Birmingham constituencies is 12.8% – around 50% more than the national average, which suggests youth unemployment may be over 30% locally.

So more good news for 2012. Now we need to work from this to getting commitments the following the local elections, Connexions offices around Birmingham will be re-opened in order to help people in some of the hardest hit parts of the UK to find work and gain new skills.

source for youth unemployment graph

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