Wednesday, 12 October 2011

'We have not gone away' say Southampton council workers

Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party

Thursday 6 October saw the latest strike action of Southampton City Council workers. Unite called out its 700 members across the city in solidarity with 250 Unison care workers.

Mass pickets around the city showed continued support for the fight to defend the contracts torn up by Torycouncillors.

"We've not gone away!" was the message on the picket line. Council workers have showed steely determination to sustain months of strike action and a work-to-rule.

This action has been fuelled by a burning anger at the hypocrisy of councillors who vote for their own pay rises while cutting the pay of those delivering frontline services. How this system rewards the hangman!

Hundreds marched and rallied in Guildhall Square to chants of "Cut my pay? No Way! Same old Tories, lying Tories!" All the hot air that pay cuts would save jobs is clearly now a Tory lie as plans are made to cut hundreds of jobs.

One of the bin depot picket line stalwarts said to me: "We have shown every council in this country what they can expect if they try to attack our pay and conditions. I think we are playing our part in showing the way to fight back".

Loud cheers were given as messages of support were read out from RMT leader Bob Crow and PCS leader Mark Serwotka.

Undoubtedly as national public sector strike action on 30 November looms closer there is a sense of a growing battle developing.

Public support for the strike remains strong with the finger of blame pointing to the council and the government.

The Socialist Party has continued to argue that to win the dispute, strike action needs to involve the whole council and the campaign needs to be linked to everyone in the community - who are seeing their services cut.

Every trade union member in the city, public or private, should be given a chance to register their solidarity for the council workers.

A Saturday demonstration called by the council unions could show the strikers the support they have and show the Tories the opposition they have fuelled.

The prospect of defeating the Tories next May in the local elections is undoubtedly a relished goal. But increasingly workers are clear that Labour offers no alternative.

It is vital that support for a clear alternative to the cuts is built if further cuts are to be stopped.