Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Birmingham declares war on its own employees

Birmingham City Council has declared war on its employees, and on our public services. Tens of thousands of people now face pay cuts or the sack. This is devastating news, not only for these individuals and families, but for all those who value public services.

The Birmingham Mail report says it all:

Almost 26,000 workers at Birmingham City Council have been put under threat of possible redundancy. The local authority’s entire non-schools staff – covering everyone from dustmen and street sweepers to clerks and cleaners – have been sent formal legal notices warning their contracts of employment were to be changed and cuts in pay and conditions imposed.

This is not about ‘waste’. It has nothing to do with ‘efficiency’, and even less to do with ‘fairness’.

It is an ideologically-driven attack on the very existence of public services. And it is an attempt to make low paid public sector workers pay the bill for the damage caused to our economy by rich bankers.

Many people voted Liberal Democrat in the mistaken belief they were more ‘progressive’ than Labour. After all, the Lib Dems were against the war in Iraq, and didn’t go along with the worst of Blair’s authoritarianism on civil liberties. No-one should ever make that mistake again: without the Liberal Democrats there would be no Tory war on our public services.

This week’s virtually unanimous decision by the Trades Union Congress to launch a mass campaign against the attack on public services is very important. All sorts of local and national campaigns will raise their voices against these cuts, but the trades unions are going to be at the sharp end, and the TUC has the capacity to forge a united movement of opposition.

They have pledged to call a rally outside parliament in October when spending plans are announced, a national demonstration in the spring, and to co-ordinate industrial action. They are committed as well to building alliances with local communities.

This needs to be the beginning of a campaign that sweeps the country, drawing support from every possible source, giving hope and confidence that there is an alternative to the economic madness of the ConDems.