A bulletin distributed outside Sheffield Council buildings this morning
Cameron, Osborne and their chum Clegg have declared war on working class people. They are attacking welfare and public sector jobs: 490,000 public jobs will go. The £81 billion cuts are not a neutral economic necessity. They have been denounced by many leading economists as they risk slowing growth, reducing government income, and therefore making the debt even harder to pay off. The real agenda? Thatcher’s old tune: less for the working class, more for the powerful.
It is a lie to say that we are standing on the brink of economic ruin or that the money has run out. It is spin to claim that we are ‘all in this together’.
The poorest 10%, those on sickness benefits and the disabled will be hit the hardest. The jobs and conditions of average and low-paid workers in the public sector will be hammered. As the cuts were announced, Goldman Sachs bankers were drinking champagne to celebrate huge bonuses. So much for ‘fairness’.
How many Sheffield Council jobs will be axed?
The boss of Sheffield Homes, Peter Morton, likes to think he is independent, but is in fact wholly dependent on the council, who own and finance Sheffield Homes. He has said he will make an announcement in the New Year about job cuts and “reconfiguration” of the services. This echoed the words of Sheffield council’s chief executive John Mothersole. The truth is, we are just numbers to these overpaid managers. The Lib Dem council bosses are ahead of the cutting game. They have already planned to slash £200 million—or 30%—of council spending on jobs and services in the next four years. Deputy council leader David Baker refused to say how many jobs would be lost. This will not be announced until January along with cuts to sick pay and increments. The blade will cut in April.
The shock therapy has already been applied to the workers at the rent counter at Howden House. These jobs will go in April next year. Over 2,000 people have already signed a petition to protest at the council’s decision to end this service. But it will take more than petitions to stop this jobs cull. How many council workers and Sheffield Homes staff will face a similar future? Staff at Howden House, the main council office, have been informed they might have to hot desk, since it seems that whatever staff and services survive the chop will be concentrated in that building. Reorganisation is already underway and the aim is to complete the process by August next year. This is not good news for tenants on the council estates who could lose their local Housing Offices and other local services.
Tenants will suffer too
Tenants on the council estates will be squeezed with cuts to disability payments, incapacity payments, changes to Employment Support Allowance, and housing benefits. There will be higher rents. Tenants will be trapped on the estates in deeper poverty. New council tenants in the future will lose secure tenancies and could be forced to get on their bikes to search for work or provide a mobile source of cheap labour for private sector employers. The government’s neo-liberal economics assumes private capitalism will pick up the economic slack. But our lives will be blighted as the axe is taken to the heart of welfare.
Labour and the state of the unions
The leaders of the Labour Party in Parliament are not opposed to cuts in principle. Their main complaint is the speed and timing. They will not lead a real fight against the cuts. They fear working-class resistance more than the effects of the cuts. The trade union bureaucracy has yet to organise effective opposition beyond the usual rhetoric. The leader of the TUC does not want to go beyond token protests. He prefers to appeal to government to be ‘reasonable’ in applying the cuts. The local council union leaderships in Sheffield have yet to call branch meetings and joint mass meetings with other unions. The branch officials have not been organising shop meetings during lunch breaks or after work. The local Unison branch leaders have been particularly ineffective and feeble.
What can we do?
We should organise and link up with tenants on the estates. We should discuss cuts with work-mates and tenants. If we are union members we should insist on stewards or branch officials calling shop meetings and branch meetings. Meetings should not be confined to the members of one union. There should be joint meetings wherever possible. We should not wait for union ballots or the authorisation of union officials if action is needed and they cannot deliver on time. We should not allow any union to hold things up.
We should form campaign organisations with tenants and residents outside work and union structures to save services and jobs. We should start to prepare now for when the axe falls in April 2011. Industrial action and community solidarity can stop the cuts, if we fight hard enough. It’s us who keep society running.
If we can save jobs and services with self organisation and solidarity then we are on the way to reshaping services to meet our need and going beyond handouts and bosses to a society based on need, not profit. Make sure they don’t solve their crisis at our expense.
We need meetings to discuss the cuts and organise a strong response. If the union won’t organise them, let’s organise them ourselves.
This bulletin was produced by members of The Commune. We are a network of communists based in cities around the country including Sheffield.
We believe that working-class people need to take their workplaces and communities into their own hands, not follow the rules of the state or private business.
In the fight against capitalism, including against the current cuts, we believe in the need for workers’ self-organisation, solidarity and independence from useless politicians and trade union bureaucrats.
We have produced this bulletin to encourage debate about the cuts and what we can do to stop them. If you have any ideas, questions or comments (or would like to contribute to future bulletins), write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should we just fight the cuts, or can we fight for more?
We need to fight the cuts. But are the current public services enough? Come to a open discussion meeting on how the working-class can fight the government’s agenda for the welfare state.
7pm on Wednesday 3rd November at the Rutland Arms, Brown Street (near The Showroom cinema).