Sunday 13 September 2009

Unite to defend public services

Saturday night's an unusual time to hold a meeting (!) but last night was when a meeting had been called to pull together local campaigns defending public services. I was pleased to go along and offer my support.

A wide range of campaigns was represented, including some that had already registered successes. Tony, from the PCS, reported on their successful defence of Deptford Job Centre which had been earmarked for closure. Eleanor reported on how Lewisham Council had been forced to step back over their plans to demolish Lewisham Bridge school. Tania and Susanna explained how New Cross residents had successfully campaigned against a local pub being opened as a strip club, not the 'job opportunity' that they wanted to become the only choice available to young women as the recession takes hold.

I was able to report on the NUT's local campaigns against Trusts and Academies and to call on parents to help give teachers confidence to take action to prevent the break-up of Local Authority schooling.

The meeting also debated whether we should back a slate of candidates to challenge the various establishment parties in next May's council election. With local elections in London only coming once every four years, this could be an important opportunity to get our message across - as well as to see if we can get more voices in the Town Hall - alongside Lewisham's two existing Socialist Party councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood - prepared to speak out on behalf of local trade unionists and campaigners.

No final decisions were taken for now but, with similar discussions taking place nationally about how to provide trade unionists and other voters with a real choice in next year's elections, it is a move that I would certainly support, locally and nationally.

Too often, the NUT is defending local authority services against councillors and council officials who are only too keen to hand over their responsibilities to private sponsors. Standing our own candidiates in local elections in defence of education could be an important additional weapon in the Union's armoury and a strategy that I would like to see the NUT and other trade unions giving support.

No comments: