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Fighting all cuts and privatisation. Defending jobs, services and benefits.
How can we build a 24 hour general strike against the cuts? - SACA Meeting
BUILD A MASS CAMPAIGN TO FIGHT THE CUTS
The savagery of the cuts planned by the Con-Dem coalition is breathtaking. It’s nothing short of the planned destruction of public services and the systematic dismantling of the welfare and benefits system. Brutal cuts in wages and working conditions are also part of their remedy for an economic crisis created by the rich elite.
All in all the £83 billion of planned cuts are a declaration of war against working class communities, trade unionists and the poor. In contrast this government of millionaires are allowing the bankers and big business to stuff their pockets, while slashing public spending to the bone. Like never before the trade union movement, our communities and all of us facing these unprecedented attacks need to organise to defend ourselves.
It is vital that a mass campaign of opposition is built - starting with the TUC demonstration on March 26th. But that is only the start. We need to organise mass resistance to the cuts. Central to this will be the building of effective and coordinated strike action by the trade unions. This must be linked to the building of a huge anti-cuts movement in every workplace, every community, which has the potential to defeat the tsunami of cuts and the government itself.
The SNP Scottish government implemented the Con-Dem cuts with a savage cuts budget in February. The result is a £1.3 billion reduction in funding for public services in Scotland for 2011/12. Further cuts of another £2 billion are planned over the next three years. The consequences for jobs, services and working conditions are horrendous. Thursday 10th February – so-called Super Thursday – saw the majority of Scotland’s councils set cuts budgets amounting to the slashing of more than £500 million from local government over the next year.
At least 10,000 jobs will be lost in Scotland’s public services over the next year. On top of this are the cuts at a UK level that directly affect the welfare state including Scotland’s share of the £18 billion in benefit cuts and the slashing of civil service jobs, which will add billions more in cuts to the Scottish economy. These attacks are being implemented with the compliance of Labour and SNP councillors and MSPs. Some of the cuts include:
Glasgow have slashed £100 million from the budget over the next two years with the loss of 3,500 jobs North Lanarkshire have axed £55 million, including 600 job losses in what the Labour leader, Tom McCabe, described as a ‘socialist’ budget – because it spread the pain evenly!
Aberdeen the SNP/Lib Dem coalition demanded a 5% pay cut on all workers over £21,000 a year: when this was rightly rejected by the trade unions, the council then came back with a proposal for 900 compulsory redundancies and been forced to back down. Fife, the SNP/Lib Dem coalition voted to privatise all the council’s residential care homes. Renfrewshire the SNP led council proposed to axe 60 teachers posts and replace them with lower paid, less qualified staff. SACA welcomes the decision of Scottish Unison in December to call on elected politicians to set needs budgets and to support coordinated strike by public sector unions against cuts. It’s about time that elected politicians refused to make cuts and do what councillors did in Poplar, Clay Cross and Liverpool in the past and refuse to inflict Tory cuts on our communities.
Renfrewshire – Council defeated over cuts
A huge mobilisation of parents, teachers and the local community forced the SNP-led council in Renfrewshire to abandon plans to axe 60 teachers posts. The mass campaign involved a magnificent public rally of over 1,000 people in Paisley and an indicative ballot of teachers for industrial action which produced a 97% “Yes” vote. This was in opposition to the SNP-led Renfrewshire Council’s attempt to save £1.2 million by cutting the hours of teachers and replacing them with lower paid seasonal staff to work on ‘cultural, citizenship and sporting learning activities’. This would result in the loss of 60 teaching posts. Insult was heaped on injury when the council claimed that this move would actually improve educational provision. But the politicians were forced to retreat by the huge opposition that their plans provoked. A mass community campaign linked to threat of strike action by teachers in the EIS is a great example of how we can stand up to the cuts and win victories.
Trade Unions must fight the cuts
The local government employers’ body, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), have already imposed an effective three-year pay freeze, ie a pay cut, on all council workers. Given rampant inflation this may well result in a 12% cut in living standards for hundreds of thousands of workers. Pay restraint is being enforced in schools, the NHS and the civil service as well.
The SNP’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has declared, “If people are willing to accept pay restraint, then we will do our bit to protect family budgets and job security”. Public sector workers will rightly reply, how can you protect family budgets when faced with year-on-year wage cuts? How can job security be protected when tens of thousands of jobs are being slashed from the public sector pay-roll?
Salmond wants to see a new version of the discredited ‘social contract’ for Scotland. This is nothing more than a cover for cuts. In reality only a determined mass struggle by workers and local communities to defend every job, oppose all wage cuts and every attack on services can the parties of cuts and privatisation be defeated.The trade unions in Scotland and across Britain must reject any form of partnership with the employers and the government.
A recent document, signed by the STUC, CoSLA and the Scottish government, proposes that unions should sign up to an agreement ‘The Public Sector Workforce Framework’ which argues for “no compulsory redundancies in exchange for an agreement to real and meaningful working practices that allow employers to generate the package of savings required to fund this goal”. In other words cuts to wages and conditions to avoid compulsory redundancies. This is a dead-end for the trade union movement. Instead unions should oppose every attack on wages, jobs and terms and conditions and prepare for strike action to defend members and the services we provide.
Oppose the pensions robbery
"These proposals represent a further assault on workers living standards. Taken with other measures like pay freezes, it means poverty. We need a united response of coordinated strike action across the public sector to fight these attacks." - Ian Leech Unison member and local government worker, Glasgow
Martin Powell-Davies, a Socialist Party member and executive committee member of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), explains what Hutton's proposals on pensions will mean and why millions of public sector workers need to urgently ballot for strike action against this major attack.
Lord Hutton's second report into public sector pensions has confirmed the attacks that we have been expecting. He has recommended: a) An end to final salary pension schemes - to be replaced by 'career average' schemes in order to cut the value of pensions. b) Retiring older - the 'normal pension age' would rise first to 65 for all but increase further to 68 in future to track the rising state pension age. This comes on top of the attacks we already know about, particularly: c) Paying more - with the government wanting to increase pension contributions by 50%. Lord Hutton's interview on Radio 4 this morning contained a series of distortions designed to confuse and divide opposition - we must not be fooled.
First, he claims that 'there is no alternative', that we're all living longer and so we have to work longer to pay for it. The financial statistics don't back this up. As the NUT press release has stated: "The National Audit Office has confirmed that public sector pension costs are falling as expected due to the reforms already in place. "Pensions have already been cut by changing their link from RPI to CPI inflation. As a result of this, next month's pension increase will be 1.5% less than it should have been". Second, Hutton claims that public-sector workers can't expect to carry on with final-salary pensions when most private-sector workers aren't getting them.
But why should we allow ourselves to be ripped off in the same way that many private companies are ripping off their employees? The best way to defend all workers - in both the public and private sectors - is for someone to put up a fight, and we are going to! Lastly, as well as trying to divide public sector workers from private sector colleagues, Hutton wants to divide classroom teachers from promoted colleagues by claiming that 'career-average' schemes will be 'fairer' to those lower down the scale. But what he intends will be unfair to all of us. These schemes will be constructed to give us less pension even though we'll be paying in more. There's nothing 'fair' about Hutton's proposals - they are just another part of this government's agenda of cuts and privatisation.
Hutton did have to admit that there would have to be consultation and changes to legislation to bring in these changes. That means we have a window - although it might be a short one - to organise the united action needed to stop these attacks. Hutton's report must be met with a quick response - coordinated ballots across the public sector for strike action to defeat this pensions robbery. Hutton's report is an example of distorted propaganda on behalf of this millionaires government.
As Unison have rightly pointed out: "The local government and NHS pension schemes were renegotiated in 2006 to make them sustainable and affordable. Both schemes are cash rich – more is going in than coming out. Last year, the NHS scheme received £2billion more in contributions than it paid out and this money went straight to the Treasury. The average pension in public service pension schemes is very low, for example in local government, the average is just over £4,000, falling to £2,800 for women. If these people didn’t save for their retirement, they would have to rely on means tested benefits paid for by the taxpayer. Pensioners are already being hit with the move from RPI to CPI to calculate annual inflation increases - this will reduce their value by 15%.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Even Hutton's own interim report in October showed that the cost of public sector pensions is falling." and, "...what fatally undermines Hutton's argument is George Osborne explicitly telling parliament that ‘from the perspective of filling the hole in the public finances, we will seek changes that deliver an additional £1.8bn of savings per year in the cost of public service pensions by 2014-15’...so public sector pensions are being cut not because they are unaffordable or unsustainable but because there's a hole in the public finances. That hole was caused by the banking crisis and the recession that resulted. It was not caused by public spending, public sector workers or their pensions."
To affiliate, for more information, or to invite a SACA speaker to your anti cuts group or TU branch, contact SACA here