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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Almost a month ago, a coach full of trade unionists, Socialists, Greens and members of the local Axe the Bedroom Tax group as well as a few Labour party members, went off to Manchester for the Save the NHS march and rally outside Tory party conference. The police say around 50,000 were on the streets demonstrating which really means that at least this many turned out. Interestingly this was double the figure the TUC was anticipating in the run-up to the demo. Although the target was the attacks on the NHS this demo represented the culmination of frustration against the widely hated Tory lead government.

The Socialist Party nationally as well as locally had made a strong mobilisation for the demo which was clear from the many stalls, leafleters and paper sellers side by side with other left groups. In fact every imaginable kind of group from badger cull opponents to feminists and all manner of trade unions were on the streets with their material and banners. However, the collosal booing that rung out as we passed the venue of the Conservative party conference showed we were united in opposition to our common enemy.

The banner of the Tory conference read "For hardworking people" but the real hardworking people were the men and women who had came out to oppose this government determined to make ordinary people pay for a crisis they had no role in bringing about.

I talked with Hovis workers who after two weeks of strike action managed to win proper contracts for workers on zero hour terms. This victory was conceded by management at the start of their third strike. This is a very important precedent given the large numbers of young people affected by the scourge of casualised labour, zero-hour contracts with no rights or assurances. This victory shows that if we fight we can win.

The strikes that are taking place now must carry on what the demo started. Unions must coordinate their ballots and strike on the same day to have the greatest effect if the austerity steam-roller is to be pushed back and the millionaire government stopped in it's tracks.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Carlisle Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition met yesterday to discuss the Royal Mail sell off and twelve people attended. The meeting unanimously agreed the following resolution.
Carlisle Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition

Resolution 14th October 2013

This meeting condemns the privatisation of Royal mail and urges the public to support the fight by the Communication Workers' Union to maintain the service, jobs and conditions. If the mail workers have to strike to win these, it will be a fight in all our interests. We therefore expect politicians from all parties to take an unequivocal position on this fight: either FOR or AGAINST.

655,000 people now own what used to belong to all of us. Once again the 99% have been robbed by the 1%, and the big business financed politicians have aided and abetted. These shareholders are not “investors” but chancers, who will soon sell to the big City finance sharks and rake off hundreds of pounds of our money for doing nothing. While the new owners will bleed the service of around £200m a year in dividends, the workers will lose jobs and income and we will all pay through stamp price rises and a worsening service.

70% of the population oppose this plunder of their property, but what do politicians care about democratic will? 96% of mail workers oppose it, so the government has rushed it through, while using the undemocratic anti-union laws to pre-empt effective strike action. We therefore call for the renationalisation of Royal Mail and the previously hived-off delivery services, without compensation but this time under the democratic control of the mail workers and customers.

We welcomed the support of the Labour Party conference for the CWU's call for Labour to give a public commitment to renationalise, but condemn the leadership's refusal and subsequent acceptance of the privatisation. We therefore call on Carlisle Labour Party and its parliamentary candidate, Lee Sherriff, to clearly state whether they are for renationalisation or not. Otherwise workers and their unions will inevitably look to build a new party to represent their interests.

We also pledge support to the firefighters, teachers, probation officers, academic and technical university staff, NHS workers and public servants currently defending their jobs, services, wages or pensions and urge them to unite in effective, coordinated action through a TUC led one-day general strike.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Today we handed in a petition to Riverside calling on the association not to evict tenants who
fall into arrears specifically due to the bedroom tax. At the handover we organised a protest against the tax outside of their Botchergate office with a core of four people joined spontaneously by at least three members of the public. Passing cars peeped their horns and members of the public called out in support after reading our banner and placards. This response and the hundreds who have signed our petition makes clear the growing opposition to the policy which aims to extract money for the most vulnerable to make them pay for a crisis they never caused. Riverside would not take the position of opposing evictions for those unable to pay the tax, however the protest will help gain publicity for the fightback against an unjust unfair attack on the poor and vulnerable.

Previously we got a write-up in the News and Star in anticipation of the protest. Links to other news reports will be made as they appear online.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Bedroom Tax, the Government policy whereby people in social housing who the Government deems to be underoccupying their homes have to pay up 14% to 25% of their housing benefit - which amounts to picking the pockets of the poorest and most vulnerable every week - has been denounced by a UN investigator. Raquel Rolnik claims that she is "shocked" by the tax and stated "My immediate recommendation is that the bedroom tax is abolished".

The Independent reports her as saying: “I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why - being so vulnerable - they should pay for the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. "People in testimonies were crying, saying 'I have nowhere to go', 'I will commit suicide'".

The article states that Ministers expect to save £500 million annually. Even if that's true it amounts to less than half a percent of the £120bn tax gap due to tax avoidance, evasion and non-collection of earnings of the super rich every year. In reality many if not most of these spare rooms are fictitious. If two children occupy two seperate bedrooms by the government's standards this is seen as a spare room and that's just one of many examples of the arbitrary character of the charge. This tax shows the class basis of the current Government (why arn't they taxing the spacious homes of the rich?) and also how disconected the Governemnt is from ordinary people's lives. It is wrong to expect the poorest to pay for the crisis created by the bankers.

Carlisle Socialist Party has been very active locally fighting the tax as part of the Axe the Bedroom Tax group, getting together petitions against the tax on the estates and helping to organise an open air meeting against the tax outside the block of one bedroom flats in Botcherby that were being knocked down by Riverside. We think that instead of punishing the poor, two million new council houses should be built to tackle the lack of affordable housing. Cap rents, not benefits.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

In a recent article in the Mirror, Helen Pattison, a young worker talks about the scandal of zero-hour contracts and her own experience doing pub work. These contracts allow bosses to mess about with their workers hours at will as suits their own needs. People stuck on these contracts can't plan their lives because they can be called in or sent home at a moments notice. It also masks the scandal of underemployment which greatly exceeds the official figure for youth unemployment which itself is over a million!

John Harris at the Guardian has written an article on leftwing alternatives to Labour. I wouldn't quite agree with everything he says but at least it gives TUSC a plug in a national newspaper. Bob Crow is quoted:

"Over 100 years ago, my union and most unions supported the Liberal party, and they were told: 'You've got to stay in the Liberal party and turn it around,'" he tells me. "They broke with that and formed the Independent Labour party, because the Liberals weren't representing people that were working, unemployed, and in social deprivation. They set up the Labour party. And I think, 100 years later, what trade unions are realising is that the three main parties all support privatisation, all support anti-trade union laws, and all support, from time to time, illegal wars around the world."

TUSC is a step towards the formation of a new workers party that will act in the interests of the 99% and not the 1% in whose interests the three main parties act. The bosses have three parties, why not build one of our own!

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