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Union action needed to fight Tory Derbyshire Council cuts
Chesterfield Socialist Party
Derbyshire's local government unions must respond with boldness and determination in the face of the Tory-controlled county council's latest round of austerity.
Last year, the council announced plans to consult on 'outsourcing' 20 of its 45 libraries to volunteers. Like virtually all local government consultations these days, the exercise was just an excuse to add some 'democratic' gloss to a decision already made in principle. That decision has now been confirmed.
Despite massive opposition among the workforce, the union leaders have not translated this into any form of action to prevent the transfers. Experienced library staff are about to lose their jobs.
This move will 'save' Derbyshire County Council £1.6 million. To put that into context, they have just announced a spend of £100 million over the next five years on the roads.
More recently, the council has attacked the school meals service by cutting back on hours. Some workers will face hours cut below the level where they can receive in-work benefits, so forcing them out of the job market because they will get more money by not working!
School meals workers in Derbyshire have already lost hundreds of pounds as a result of the council withdrawing from paying the Living Wage. Now many face losing another £1,200 a year.
It is a scandal the council could be forcing some workers to use food banks, a much-commented-upon irony given their occupation.
In another drastic cost-cutting measure, the Tory council has met the public's increased concerns over knife crime and street violence by putting at risk the jobs of 200 staff employed in the early help services for young people.
On all of these 'consultations', the council has simply ignored the unions' representations and refused to change its plans. It has no intention of listening to reason. Only the threat of action will force it to backtrack.
This is even more important over the biggest proposed change - privatisation of corporate property work, encompassing cleaning, caretaking, grounds maintenance, plumbing, electricians and so on. This could see up to 1,500 staff sold off to private contractors - more Carillions and Interserves in the making.
The annual budget of the whole operation is much less than the proposed increased annual spend on potholes and roads. It is simply a means to line the pockets of big business with revenue from the public purse. It must be fought.
Sadly, to date, the unions' responses have been inadequate. Campaigns are launched then peter out as leaders are not prepared to take the next step - moving from publicity to action.
The way to tackle such huge cuts is for all the unions to unite around a common programme of fighting austerity, which starts by telling workers their unions will back them fully. This will increase the confidence of trade union members and will also act as the best recruiting tool possible.
The success stories of striking council workers recently in Glasgow and Birmingham need shouting from the rooftops - these show what can be achieved with a bold union leadership.
- Chesterfield Socialist Party public meeting: 'the state of the unions'
- Tuesday 14 May, 7.30pm, Upstairs @ The Chesterfield Alehouse, 37 West Bars, Chesterfield S40 1AG
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