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Libraries and voluntary organisations under attack
60 people, mainly local government workers in the union Unite, gathered at Greenwich town hall in Woolwich on Tuesday 21 September to protest at the council's plan to make £70 million worth of cuts to jobs and services.
Paul Callanan, Greenwich Socialist Party
The protest was called by Greenwich Save Our Services, a campaign launched by Socialist Party members which has the support of workers who are members of the unions Unite, Unison, NUT and CWU.
The council is notoriously secretive about its plans, wanting to head off resistance from workers and service users.
But it is already known that it plans to cut 40% of the grant that goes to voluntary sector organisations such as GCRE and Scope as well as closing all the libraries in the borough and having just one big library in the new council building being built in Woolwich.
I was first to speak at the protest rally and pointed out: "It was all well and good the leader of the council whining to the council's propaganda rag, the Greenwich Times, that these cuts will affect every family and that they have no mandate for them; well, the answer is don't vote them though then".
I issued a challenge to the council to follow the example of the Militant-led council in Liverpool in the 1980s that mobilised trade unionists and the working class in the city and won £30 million from the Thatcher government.
Two retired Unite members were present, protesting at the council's cuts to the maintenance of their local bowling green.
One said: "They're cutting everything these days, where will it end? What we need is a campaign, not just of the workers but of the whole community".
Due to the anti-union stance of the council over recent months, the protesters marched away from the steps of the town hall and went round the corner to hear one of the trade union activists speak.
This speaker drew our attention to the refusal of some of the Greenwich council trade union leaders to act in defence of jobs and services, and declared: "We will have to find ways of working to build a campaign of workers and service users in defence of jobs and services".
He called for everyone to attend the Greenwich SOS meeting on 5 October. The main speaker was Michael Callanan, Unite steward for Grounds Maintenance and a Socialist Party member.
He warned that "100 years of working class gains are under threat" and said "it's outrageous that while the banksters and politicians of all stripes are robbing us blind, it's our services and jobs that they say have to go".
Michael warned: "If any of our stewards or members are harassed by the council, we'll see them on the picket line".
He finished by saying: "This is just the start of the campaign in defence of jobs, our pay, terms and conditions and our services.
In future the protests will get bigger and louder".