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Ammanford home care workers march
ABOUT 200 protesters attended a GMB, T&G and UNISON-organised march in the ex-mining town of Ammanford on 30 March against Carmarthenshire county council's plans to privatise the in-house home carers service.
Mark Evans, UNISON assistant branch secretary, Carmarthenshire county branch - personal capacity
There is clear evidence from service users that the service is being dismantled. The march and rally demonstrated the willingness of union members and the public to fight the local authority's plans.
This march was the beginning of that campaign. A letter had gone to all councillors, asking them to support our campaign but they, including New Labour councillors, were conspicuous by their absence.
Alec Thraves, speaking for the Socialist Party and the SOS NHS campaign, spoke on the need for a new workers' party that could represent working-class people and oppose New Labour's attacks on our working conditions and living standards. The Socialist Party sold 40 papers on the march.
This demonstration helped gain public support and gave union members a sense of their own strength. Unfortunately public opinion is, on its own, unlikely to win this dispute. The New Labour led Welsh Assembly is encouraging the local authority to take this course of action.
Unfortunately, previous union negotiating stances encouraged the employer to go on the offensive. At the rally, Jeff Burns, GMB full-time officer, admitted that the unions had compromised with the employer in previous negotiations over pay and conditions, including for home carers. He bemoaned the council's response and said that as a result the gloves were off.
But the council threw off the gloves and put on the knuckle-duster a long time ago. The unions' weakness has invited the employer's aggression. If we are to win this dispute, we will need to move quickly. Many home carers are understandably reluctant to take industrial action due to the effect it could have on vulnerable service-users.
However many carers see that only industrial action will force the employer to back down. We should be campaigning amongst home carers now and balloting them soon to take industrial action.
In The Socialist 4 April 2007:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reviews
PCS takes industrial action
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Workplace news and analysis