Saturday, 31 March 2012

Galloway victory shows potential for challenges to the main parties

In a press release today, Trade Unionist and Socialist London list candidate Nick Wrack said:

George Galloway's overwhelming win in Bradford West shows that Labour can no longer take its working-class voters for granted.

Labour has paid a huge price for its support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its endorsement of the government's austerity policies.

He added:

Millions are facing cuts, unemployment, pay freezes and the privatisation of public services they depend on, while millionaire bankers and bosses continue to pick up massive salaries and bonuses.

Why should ordinary people pay for a crisis they didn't cause? There is a deep discontent with the three-party consensus and this result shows that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has a real chance to win seats in the London elections on 3 May. Labour should be prepared for another upset.

In Liverpool, TUSC mayoral contender Tony Mulhearn commented:

I applaud George Galloway's victory, which symbolises a total rejection of the policies of the Con-Dem government, and a recognition that New Labour no longer represents the interests of working people.

Tony added:

This underlines the need for a mass movement to provide a real anti-cuts alternative in the interests of the 99%, which I and my colleagues in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition intend to provide at the mayoral and council polls on the 3rd of May.

For more information see:

Teachers action on March 28th - a springboard to national action

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Support 28 March pension strike

By Martin Powell-Davies NUT teachers' union executive, personal capacity

War is declared! ...or at least, the next phase in the ongoing pensions action has been called - with NUT and UCU members in the 'post 1992 universities' going on strike across London on 28 March. Now we need your urgent support!

This is because the coalition government, while planning to cut taxes for the richest and to privatise our schools and other services, again in the interests of the 1%, remains dead-set on slashing public sector pensions. They want us to work longer, pay more and then get less.

These cuts mean that some teachers are being told that their retirement age will rise to 68. The attacks will also mean all teachers face pay cuts from April 2012 as pension contributions are increased.

Teachers in London will be among the hardest hit. Contributions will rise from 2012-14 by over 50%. An experienced inner-London teacher will see their annual salary fall by £1,500 by April 2014.

Many teachers outside London - who also voted by a big majority in the consultations to support strike action on pensions - are disappointed that they haven't been given the chance to strike on 28 March too. I and others argued for national action but regrettably the majority of the NUT executive voted for a strategy of regional action starting in London.

The best way, however, of making sure NUT conference in April votes to call on-going national action next term is to help those of us in London make sure that our 28 March action is a big success!

Because of what we do, teaching the children of other workers while they work, our strike will have a big impact on London. Last summer a desperate Tory education minister Michael Gove exhorted parents to 'run' the schools for a day but parents showed huge support for the 30 June strike.

With schools, colleges and universities across the 32 London boroughs involved in strike action on 28 March a clear message will be sent to the government - public sector workers are not done with you yet!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Build a strategy to win on pensions

Statement on pensions struggle, by John McInally, PCS vice-president, personal capacity

Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members have voted by huge majorities to reject the government's final offer on pensions which is intended to make us pay more, get less and work longer. Members also voted for national coordinated action with other unions to win a fair settlement. 90% voted to reject the offer and 72% for further action. This is the best vote achieved in PCS and under the most difficult circumstances. Our members are determined not to allow thegovernment to get away with stealing their pensions.

PCS has been at the forefront of the pensions campaign, arguing that the only way to stop the attack completely or win concessions would be to build the widest possible trade union alliance.

The government intend to roll out pensions 'reform' across the public sector. Coordinated national action was always the best way to challenge it. PCS showed it was possible to fight back while many other union leaders and the TUC stood back from the type of effective campaigning, including industrial action, that could challenge the attack.

On 30 June last year PCS members, along with members of the education unions, including the biggest teaching union NUT, went on strike, demonstrating that workers are prepared to struggle. It was the example shown on 30 June, along with the government's intransigence, that directly led to 30 November (N30), the biggest strike in many decades.
Had the unions pressed home the advantage then there is little doubt concessions would have been possible.

But the TUC and other union leaders, particularly in Unison, the biggest public sector union, bowed down to an ultimatum by the government.

This was designed to divide and rule, to call off the industrial action campaign to "consider" a so-called Heads of Agreement that offered no concessions whatsoever on the core issues millions struck against - paying more, getting less and working longer.

PCS played a key role in rebuilding a coalition of unions willing to continue the fight, particularly via the emergency 7 January conference called by Left Unity in PCS.

In order to succeed the PCS national executive (NEC) has agreed that action had to take place in more than one pensions sector, the civil service and education being the most likely.

This is a defining battle and failure to stand up to the attack would give the government the green light to step up their attacks on jobs, pay, privatisation and terms and conditions.

PCS members were clear, the government offer was overwhelmingly rejected and they would be prepared to take action to defend their pensions.

This result was achieved in the context of major unions dropping out of the N30 coalition, continuing attacks from the government and a pay freeze that is hitting our low-paid members very hard.

It was also won on the clear understanding that, as set out in the ballot insert, NUT, UCU and Unite would be part of the alliance that could deliver a "strong campaign". The campaign was due to be re-launched with a one-day strike on 28 March. Unfortunately at their meeting last week the teachers' union NUT voted not to take national action on 28 March. NUT conference in a few week's time will debate whether or not to continue in the alliance with nationally coordinated action. The lecturers' union UCU said it would take action in further education colleges and post-92 higher education colleges, which are part of the teacher's pension scheme. This means they would not be taking action in Scotland.

Unite has now decided to ballot its members in the civil service before taking action. In these circumstances and despite the fact the Northern Ireland Public Services Association (NIPSA) would almost certainly have taken action, the PCS NEC has agreed not to take action on 28 March. To go ahead in such circumstances would mean in significant parts of the country only PCS members would be taking action effectively on their own.

This is precisely what we told members we would not do, take action on our own or without a coalition of unions capable of pressurising the government into returning to the negotiating table. Given these developments, the NEC agreed that PCS must continue to work with other unions to build for national coordinated action at the earliest possible opportunity and before the end of April if possible. It was also agreed to organise mass constituency lobbying of MPs during the Easter recess, including cabinet minister's constituencies.

PCS branches will support and organise local protests and campaign events against the government's cuts programme, including their latest vicious plans for regional and local pay. We must honestly recognise that the NUT decision not to take national action on 28 March is a setback.

But if its conference in a few weeks decides to build for national coordinated action then action before the end of April with a strengthened coalition is entirely possible and certainly what PCS will work for.

While regrouping the union alliance cannot be solely contingent on a decision at the NUT conference, a positive decision would be an extremely significant boost to putting together a credible alliance to win concessions. NUT and UCU are to take action in London only on 28 March and PCS will offer whatever support and solidarity it can.

But we will not join that action because it is simply not the type of industrial action response we consulted our members on - large-scale and effective national coordinated action across at least two sectors. PCS reps have worked hard to win the ballot and build for 28 March and there will clearly be disappointment.

However we must always treat our members with respect: they have repeatedly shown they are prepared to follow the NEC's call for action, but to ask them to take action on 28 March when the coalition we worked so hard to put together to win concessions is clearly not properly in place would be an abrogation of responsibility to low-paid members whose loyalty and determination has been a beacon to the movement.

The NEC is absolutely confident that the best way to proceed is to recognise we must now re-group. In the coming weeks we must put together the type of coalition we told members in the ballot was required if we are to win on pensions.
PCS will continue to work for the widest possible trade union alliance that recognises the fight against the pensions robbery as part of a broader fight against the government's austerity agenda. PCS will now do all it can to build for effective action in April.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Video: The Socialist Party in 2011

Video shown at Socialist Party Congress 10-12 March 2012. Shows the critical role of the National Shop Stewards Network and Youth Fight for Jobs over 2011, in the fight against government attacks and in the fight for a socialist future.
Trotsky wrote about "the lever of a small group" - this is possibly what the Newsnight commentator had in mind.

PCS: Record number reject pensions deal - get ready for strike action on 28th March

Press release from: 
Civil and public servants have rejected by a massive margin the government's attempts to make them pay more and work longer for a worse pension, and given the go ahead for further industrial action.

In a consultation ballot held by the union - representing more than half of all staff in the civil service and its related agencies - 90.5% of respondents rejected the government's proposals for a new pension scheme.

In what is the largest vote for action in any national ballot the union has held, 72.1% said they supported continuing the campaign, including with further industrial action alongside other unions. The turnout was 32.8%.

The union says this overwhelming rejection should bring the government back to the negotiating table to talk about the key issues over which ministers have consistently refused to move:
Increasing contributions from 1 April, with the money raised going to the Treasury to pay off the deficit
Linking the normal pension age with the state pension age, set to rise to 68 and possibly beyond
Devaluing pensions through the imposed switch in inflation indexation, which is still subject to a legal appeal in the High Court

The union's national executive committee will meet on Monday 19 March to consider the results alongside the latest positions of the other unions, and make a decision on the way forward.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Civil and public servants can see that this government simply wants to make them pay for the mistakes of bankers and politicians, and have rejected by a massive margin this attack on their pensions.

"Ministers must now seriously engage in negotiations on the core issues if they want a settlement.

"The vote shows we remain committed to resisting this government's attacks on pensions, jobs and pay, and to working with other unions to build further co-ordinated industrial action."

Background to the vote

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Reports of student protests across the country

Wednesday, March 14th saw hundreds of students protesting against cuts, tuition fees and privatisation across the country. This day was part of an NUS called ‘walkout’. But in reality the vast majority of actions were organised and built by Socialist Students members and anti-cuts activists. Despite little to no support for action from most students unions locally and NUS nationally, the series of successful demonstrations and college walkouts which took place showed the huge anger on our campuses. Students and young people are not willing to simply accept Con-Dems brutal onslaught on our education and our future – we are determined to fight back!

London, Claire Laker-Mansfield

In London around 500 students joined a march from the University of London Union to the Department for Business innovation and skills. The demonstration displayed an enormously angry mood which was directed at the government and in particular the universities minister, David Willetts. The protest had clear demands, against tuition fees, cuts privatisation and for the immediate reinstatement of EMA. Outside Downing Street, a short sit down protest took place. Unfortunately no rally was organised at the end of the education which could have played an important role in giving a way forwards for the movement. Socialist Students says what’s needed now is to go back to our campuses and continue to organise. We need local campaigns linked on a regional and national level, united with workers struggles with a strategy for victory. March 14th is just the start!

West Lancashire College, Phil Rawsthorne

The students, both in Skelmersdale and nationwide, were protesting against the vicious cuts inflicted to public services by the multi-millionaires of the Conservative led government. Specifically, the students demanded an end to ‘hidden’ university fees and the return of the E.M.A. payments, ruthlessly stolen by the Tories from working-class students nationwide. Also on the agenda was a desire to stop the Tory plans to privatise the NHS, and a demand to end slave-labour ‘workfare’ schemes that force the unemployed to work for £1.67-an-hour.During our march, we recieved excellent support from the Skelmersdale public, who showed a genuine interest in the issues we raised, as well as genuine worries regarding the reckless slashing of public services inflicted by this unpopular and uncaring government.

As the vast majority of the marchers are regular Champion readers, we would be delighted if you could publish any coverage of our march, and feel very much that it is of great public interest to the people of Skelmersdale.

Sheffield, Wylie Hume
Students from both the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University walked out of lectures in protest of rising tuition fees, the scrapping of EMA and all the cuts to education. This was part of the NUS called national walkout. Sheffield Socialist Students put pressure on the Student Unions at both universities but was unsuccessful in getting them to support for the walkout. However, Socialist Students along with other groups organised a demonstration of 50 people inSheffield city centre regardless of the lack of support from the student union executives who were unwilling to fight for the living, studying and working conditions of students. Students marched through the city centre to the City Hall were a rally took place with speakers from Socialist Students, Unite and the NUS. The students also passed McDonalds where they paused on their march to protest against the company’s shameful participation in the ConDem government’s Workfare scheme which forces young people to work for their benefits. The March gave a real presence in the city centre and many people expressed their support for students in their fight back against the government’s attempts to make students and workers to pay for the crisis of the rich. During the march many students showed interest in joining Sheffield Socialist Students and joining the fight that will continue against education cuts and putting pressure on the NUS to call further action.

Nottingham – by Helen Pattison

Socialist Students called a small demo at 11 which attracted a lot of attention, including from the campus security who tried to tell students it was against the law for them to hand out leaflets. Because it was an open day there were not only lots of students taking leaflets, but lots of future students who would be paying the fees who welcomed the action. The walkout got a good response and showed that the students were keen to keep up the pressure against the fees and cuts being proposed to universities. But there was also a lot of anger and the lack of support from both the NUS and the SU who were disappointed that they hadn’t heard about the action and it hadn’t been built for more widely.
Leicester – by Rebecca Christiensen

Around 20-30 engaged activists gathered at the steps outside Leicester Student Union protesting against privatisation of the university, education’s fees and also the cuts in general. We handed out a large amount of leaflets and got quite a few new contacts. Of course, a protest is not enough for Leicester Socialist Students so we are following up with a public meeting about the education cuts and privatisation to provide the political alternative and how we can fight it. Hopefully some of our new contacts will come along so that we can build a stronger Leicester Socialist Students.

Lincoln – by Alex Moore

40 students marched noisily around the campus of the University of Lincoln in protest against the rising of tuition fees and the cuts to education. After the rally which featured speakers from Socialist Students Lincoln, Youth Fight for Jobs Lincoln and Lincoln and District Trades Council, a teach-in was held in the university. Students listened to and discussed different topics such as Housing, Black Panther movement, Attacks on Public Sector pensions, and young people and politics. Socialist students organised and built for the demonstration and teach-in and was able to push the Student’s Union into helping organise the demonstration. This shows the key role active socialist students can have on campus.

Manchester, Hugh Caffrey

A good contingent of students marched from Manchester Uni to MMU against cuts fees, privatisation and for EMA. Socialist Students were to the fore in building for the demonstration and on the demonstration itself, it was our leaflets and our posters that provided the vast majority of publicity for the day and on the day. A Socialist Students public meeting in the evening in Salford attracted several students including 5 for whom this was a first ever Socialist Students meeting.

NUT Executive proposes regional strike on March 28

Socialist Party member Martin Powell-Davies - a member of the NUT National Executive - posted the following report on 14th March on his blog, about the NUT's pensions survey and next steps.

The NUT Executive met this afternoon to consider the results of the pensions survey and to decide the next steps in our ongoing action to stop teachers having to 'pay more', to 'get less' and 'retire older'.

The survey revealed overwhelming opposition to the Government's pensions robbery with 96% voting YES to the first survey question. It also showed good support for an ongoing campaign of action with 73% voting in favour of continuing action on March 28 and beyond.

Mistakenly, it was agreed that, rather than calling national strike action at this stage, the Executive starts a campaign of regional action, probably starting with a London regional strike on March 28. This decision is subject to an urgent consultation with London NUT Divisional Secretaries over the next 24 hours.

An amendment calling for national strike action, which I supported, was not carried but a further amendment, making clear that the agreed proposal was not intended as a one-off London strike but as part of an ongoing campaign, was strongly supported - again, including with my vote. This agreed that "we review at the Executive and at Conference further strike action with the intention of bringing all other regions in turn or together into the pensions action during the summer term".

The NASUWT have today publicised their rejection of the pensions deal but, apart from their limited work-to-rule, have not yet declared for any further strike action. We obviously hope that, following their Easter Conference, they will also be joining in that further strike action next term. We also hope other public sector unions will also be under pressure to rejoin action.

NUT Conference delegates in Torquay at Easter will certainly want to debate the pros and cons of regional action. I will continue to make my preference clear for national action - ideally escalated to a two-day strike.

We obviously hope that our London action on March 28 will be as part of a day of action alongside other striking unions in London and elsewhere, allowing NUT members across the country to also support local rallies and picket lines.

However, subject to the urgent consultation, the NUT's focus on March 28 will be in London. As a London NUT Executive member myself, I pledged to the meeting that I will be going all out alongside my colleagues to build the biggest possible regional action on March 28. However, I asked that all other regions give their support to London NUT members, including through donations to our hardship funds.

We cannot allow the Government to get away with their pensions robbery. Neither can we afford to retreat and give Gove and Cameron confidence to press ahead with their other planned attacks on our pay, conditions and education.

All eyes will now be on NUT members in London - as well as on the results of the surveys being announced by PCS, EIS, UCU and others. We have to show our strength on March 28 and beyond. With a determined campaign over the next two weeks, I am sure we can take the next step of building a strong London strike and also build firm foundations for the continuing campaign.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Still Time To Save The NHS
First of all, let’s recognise that George Galloway‘s spectacular victory in theBradford West by-election is a massive rejection of austerity and war no matter which of the three main parties are proposing them. There is an alternative.

Here in Bristol there have been vigorous and well-supported protests over the last week indefence of the NHS. People aren’t prepared to see it broken-up and privatised. The passing of the Health & Social Care bill is the end of the parliamentary process. The government now has to implement ithe changes. People up and down the country will resist this. That fightback is just beginning. At BADACA’s open meeting on Monday the main discussion was about the NHS. We will be working with trades unions and community groups across the city to step up campaigning to Save The NHS. There is a new edition ofBADACA’s well-received pamphlet on the NHS available online here. A printed version will be ready for distribution soon.

With others we plan to hold a Save Our NHS demonstration on Saturday May 5th. Spread the word and look out for details over the next couple of weeks.

A national demonstration in defence of the NHS would take the campaign to a new level. There is a petition calling on 38 Degrees to take up this call. You can vote here. The TUCneeds to take up the issue as well. There is a model resolution here for trades union branches to pass, calling on the TUC to organise a national demonstration. Please propose it at your next branch meeting.

In the run-up to the 5th May demonstration BADACA will be holding local Save The NHS meetings across the city. We already have plans for meetings in Bedminster,Knowle/Totterdown, Fishponds, Easton & Southmead. If you can help us organise these meetings or want to discuss holding a meeting in your own area please email

The recent protests outside the BRI will continue every Monday & Friday. Details and Facebook here. There will be a Save Our NHS rally on Saturday 7th April. Details and Facebook here. Also a Facebook group here. More events are planned around May Day on the theme ‘Rage Against The Con/Dems‘. Facebook here.

There is a campaign to reverse the closure of Bristol’s mobile library service. There is a Facebook page here and an e-petition here. Please sign -up and pass on to your friends.

To read the rest of the bulletin, visit: