Every year austerity cuts mean that the Tories are literally stealing tens of millions of pounds from the people of Leicester — a pattern that of course is being repeated across the country.
Prior to Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the leadership of New Labour, this Tory-lite party was similarly committed to austerity, albeit carried through at a slightly slower pace.
The unwillingness of the Blairites, then controlling the party, to pose an alternative to the Tories led to their utter failure at the General Election. This was then followed by the welcome election (twice) of anti-austerity campaigner Jeremy Corbyn to the head of this Blairite party.
Unfortunately, the majority of the elected councillors and MPs within the Labour Party are still Blairites through and through, and see little reason to fight against cuts and austerity. In fact, the main fight they appear to be engaged in is against the socialist leader of their own party! Locally this Blairite opposition to Corbyn has been led by City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
But enough is enough. Council Unison representative Gary Garner explained to the Leicester Mercury (December 7): “The mayor keeps talking about slowing the pace of the cuts but however quickly you do it you end up in the same place – with important services wrecked and abandoned.” Garner was clear:
“We all know the Tories are to blame but it is a Labour council that is attacking the terms and conditions of our members. It is a Labour council making our members redundant and decimating services and we know there is more coming.”
This is why he then announced that the union would “soon be starting our campaign” to oppose these brutal cuts. As preparation for this campaign, Unison are holding two initial meetings at City Hall for all Council employees, whether they are members of the union or not. (The first meeting will be held on Thursday 8th December 2016 between 12.00 – 1.30pm; and the second meeting will take place on Wednesday 14th December at City Hall between 4.00pm – 5.30pm.)
The political importance of taking a stand against Tory austerity should be clear to any socialist; but, evidently, the need to fight is not apparent to Sir Peter and his Blairite buddies. This is why many people within the Labour movement are calling upon these apathetic political representatives to step aside (or resign) to enable the Labour Party to once again begin to act as a meaningful opposition party.
The consequences of not fighting can only result in making Labour unelectable.
Take the example of the Labour-run Glasgow City Council, which last month voted to push ahead with the privatisation of the council’s ICT (Information Computer Technology) service. The local Unison branch responded by balloting their 230 members in ICT which led to a 96% vote in favour of taking industrial action. An initial one-day strike took place, which was ignored by the Council, which has led to the workers agreeing to an all-out action by 39 staff which started on Thursday 1st December.
In typical New Labour style, the Glasgow Labour-run Council have attacked and misrepresented the principled socialist opposition offered by Unison and the ICT workers.
Incredibly, the Council has even took the step of moving towards hiring a scab workforce to defeat the strike. Indeed, a recent Parliamentary Motion (EDM 748)…
“…notes with alarm that Glasgow City Council is currently recruiting agency workers to undertake work duties of those striking workers; notes comments from a senior officer of the council who informed a committee yesterday that the benefits of moving to privatisation includes employing workers to replace staff on strike, as reported in the Herald newspaper on 30 November 2016; notes that hiring agency workers to replace workers on strike has been illegal since 1973, and is a breach of regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003; demands that Glasgow City Council desists from hiring agency workers to replace those on strike; supports Unison members in their industrial action; and further supports the principle of those who withdraw their labour in collective action to pursue better working conditions.”
Certainly Constituency Labour Party branches and trade unions meetings across the world will be appalled at these Thatcherite actions being used by a Labour council, with many moving quickly to pass motions condemning the anti-democratic actions of Glasgow City Council in the strongest terms.
The obvious socialist lesson to learn from all this is that Labour Councils must oppose the implementation of cuts that will destroy the lives of many of their constituents. But Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby disagrees with such “futile political gestures” and instead guarantees that “there will be pain” for workers. Soulsby admits: “We are effectively losing two thirds of our spending for the majority of our services”; but he also refuses to fight. Well, if that is the case, then what is clear is that the organised labour movement will need to force him to act, because the Labour Party is not the Conservative Party, and so they do not have to inflict pain on workers!