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Monday, 11 October 2010

Anti-cuts movement - Who's up for the fightback?

The GMB (Britains General Trade Union) union unleashed a counterattack against the government's cuts yesterday, warning that local authorities are already preparing to slash jobs even before they discover the extent of the assault on their budget.

The union claimed that official notifications of possible redundancy were now "piling up" in offices across the country, mainly from councils in anticipation of savage cuts in the government spending review to be announced on October 20.

When GMB warns of a "tsunami" of job losses in the public sector even before the government's comprehensive spending review, it isn't indulging in fantasy or speculation.

The union is telling the plain, unvarnished truth.

A tidal wave of notifications of impending redundancies is horrifying its members and deeply worrying the union's officers, who are finding themselves in an almost Canute-like situation, trying to hold the line against an attack of dire proportions.

When national officer Brian Strutton warns that "the people losing their jobs have nowhere to go because the private sector is shedding people too," he is not only reflecting a present reality but a future perspective for tens and hundreds of thousands across the public and private sectors.

Because this government, this coalition of butchers, has barely started on its declared objective of decimating the public sector in the cause of saving money.

Chancellor George Osborne's spending review is still in the future, but its conclusions are being prejudged by local authorities across the country.

As a result, private-sector suppliers to authorities are in as much fear as public servants themselves.

It's not only local authorities who are behaving as if disaster is a foregone conclusion, however.

Ministers, who obviously know more about the way things are developing, are also attempting to prepare for the worst.

Turncoat-in-chief Vince Cable is even willing to take his own party on in the quest to serve his Tory wrecker masters better.

Despite his party's pre-election pledges to stand firm against raising tuition fees and its commitment to a graduate tax, Mr Cable was backtracking so fast that he stood in danger of vanishing up his own back passage at the weekend.

Suddenly, he has seen the light and is now fully in line with his Tory masters. Are there no depths that this opportunist time-server won't sink to?

Perhaps that's because he's been tipped off that Lord Browne's report into university funding and student finance will zero in on increasing fees.

It has even been suggested that he will recommend the total abolition of a fees cap, in which case Mr Cable would have looked so out of step that resignation would have been the only honourable alternative.

And the evidence is that he's so fixated on power he would rather turn on his own party's declared policy than relinquish his slender hold on the reins.

So forget defending education, forget defending students who are starting their working lives deep in debt and, just as important, forget defending equal access to education for poorer people who can't ven contemplate that level of indebtedness. Just safeguard your own position appears to be Mr Cable's motto.

And it's that last piece of forgetfulness that will hurt most. Because it's in the field of equality that some of the deepest damage is being done.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, equal pay for men and women appears to be "grinding to a halt" with full-time women workers still earning 16.4 per cent less than men, disabled men earn 11 per cent less than other male workers, while the gap is 22 per cent for women.

Black graduates face a pay penalty of up to 24 per cent, the list is almost endless and figures say that the cuts will his these groups hardest.

To cap it all, total household wealth of the top 10 per cent is almost 100 times higher than for the poorest 10 per cent, while one in five people live in a household with less than 60 per cent of average income.

So, with benefits cuts on the horizon and job prospects falling, the outlook is bleak indeed and the coalition is set to make it immeasurably worse.

The need for a full-on fightback has never been more apparent. Now all that's needed is the organisation and the leadership. Who's up for the fight?

If you think of Thatcher in the '80s, the most she cut was 10 per cent and we are still feeling the effect in many a town & cities up & down Britain. Councils are planning hundreds if not thousands of redundancies on top of previous threats to thousands of jobs in areas including Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Walsall, Croydon and Dorset. This tidal wave of redundancy notices is coming because councils are seeking to further reduce staff costs for next year in anticipation of reduced budgets when the government announces cuts on October 20.

Activists called on people from across Scotland today to get behind the STUC to oppose the cuts.

A packed workshop on the coalition's cuts in Glasgow debated a full range of methods and tactics to oppose the Con-Dems' agenda and shared their experiences to find a common way forward.

Communist Party of Britain executive member Tommy Morrison opened the discussion by reporting on the Unison union's campaign in Scotland to defend members against wage freezes and job losses.

Although accepting there were difficulties in getting people to resist pay restraint, Mr Morrison pointed out: "There has been success in community campaigns.

"We have to give confidence to local councillors to issue defiance budgets by having mass turnouts at lobbies," he said.

"We can really turn the screw and build a mass movement against the cuts."

Unison's Steve Smellie emphasised the need for "getting over the point that the cuts are not economically necessarily - they are politically and ideologically motivated.

"And it's not just about saving one day centres or nurseries - it's about linking it up all these cuts as part of an overall programme.

"No political party has earned the right to lead this resistance, so the trade unions need to inspire and lead this campaign."

There were several calls to build support for the STUC-backed anti-cuts march in Edinburgh and use alternative media such as the Morning Star to get the message across that there is an alternative.

STUC assistant general secretary Stephen Boyd added: "October 23 is not the culmination for workers across Scotland - it is the start of a mass campaign against the cuts."

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