Promoted by David Beale, 36 Pleasant View, Withnell, Chorley PR6 8SE on behalf of Martin Powell-Davies of TUSC.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

As the summer ends - prepare for action

As teachers get ready for the new term, we also need to get ready for further action to defend pensions.

Much has happened over the summer - unfortunately, much of it all too predictable:

* Economic reports and jitters on the world's stock markets all indicate growing fears that any limited 'recovery' in the world economy is already petering out as we slide towards a 'double-dip' recession.

Far from being a justification for further cuts, these dismal prospects are the predictable outcome of austerity packages that cut jobs, cut tax income and undermine demand as workers have even less in their pocket to spend. It's another reason to stand up to the cuts in pay and pensions that are being inflicted on teachers and many other workers.

* The disturbances earlier this month in Inner London exposed the alienation of many young people in Inner London - and elsewhere.

Teachers will continue to work hard to encourage our school-students to make the most of their talents - rather than get caught up the dead-end of rioting. But we will also expect politicians to do more than offer hypocritical lectures on 'criminality'. They have a responsibility to provide the jobs and training that can offer young people a real future when they leave school.

* Oliver Letwin, in charge of the Government's privatisation plans, disgracefully suggested that teachers and other public sector workers needed to be motivated by "fear" of losing our jobs.

Schools have been blighted for too long by a bullying regime of league tables and inspections. Staff work best through support and encouragement - not fear. But we need to take this warning very seriously. Alongside privatisation and attacks on pay and pensions, the Government is planning to scrap the existing limit on classroom observations and make it easier for schools to bully teachers out of their posts. This will be another key battle in the year ahead.

* Danny Alexander, in charge of the pensions 'negotiations' with unions, released a statement at the end of term making clear that "the Government remains committed to securing the full Spending Review savings of £2.8bn (by) 2014-15".

If the Government is determined to impose a financial straitjacket in this way, there can be no genuine negotiations on offer. It means that Ministers are only prepared to discuss exactly where the cuts should fall! As July's joint ATL/NUT/UCU statement explained "without real negotiations on this key issue, these talks will be a sham - the only issue to be decided being how much more teachers will pay, and how much longer they will have to work to secure inferior benefits".

* The Government then went on to propose how much more we will have to pay from April 2012 - as they phase-in increased pension contributions. They would rise from 6.4% of salary to 7.6% for teachers on the mainscale and to 8.0% for teachers earning over £40,000. This, of course, while annual pay rises are frozen.

As the NUT press release said in response, "There is no surprise in this announcement. It has been obvious from the start that the Government had no intention of listening to reason, and has been determined to implement changes to public sector pension schemes regardless of whether they are necessary or not".

But the press release also rightly concluded:
“We cannot allow this ruthless dismantling of our public sector pensions to go ahead ... We will be working alongside other teaching unions and the TUC to ensure that teachers and public sector workers are not penalised by a Government which appears to be determined to wreck havoc on a pension scheme that is sustainable, affordable and fair... NUT members have taken strike action before to defend their pensions and will do so again if the Government does not see sense".  

Mary Bousted, ATL General Secretary, has also been quoted in the press this week warning that the ATL are having to prepare for further action. 

As the joint ATL/NUT/UCU statement made clear at the end of last term:
"If the government will not budge from its current position those trade unions who have already taken action will, with regret, need to consider taking further industrial action in November".

The NUT Executive will be meeting shortly before the TUC Congress on Friday September 9th to discuss the latest developments and to prepare those plans for further co-ordinated action. 

However, I hope that further strike plans won't just involve the unions who took such solid action on June 30 but that we will be joined by other unions - in education and beyond - in a joint show of strength that will make absolutely clear to the Government that we aren't going to accept their plans to make us pay more in order to get less pension when we retire older.

The NSSN Rally and Lobby of the TUC on September 11th is an excllent opportunity to prepare for the term's battles - and to put pressure on the TUC to help co-ordinate the strongest and widest action possible in defence of public sector pensions - make sure you are there!

Wednesday 17 August 2011

'Youth Fight for Jobs' Organise in Tottenham

A week on from the riots, 'Youth Fight for Jobs' organised an excellent meeting in Tottenham last night to discuss the way forward for the community and local youth. The meeting was introduced by Steve Hedley from the RMT and Vik Chechi from Youth Fight for Jobs (YF4J) but, refreshingly, most time was left for those in the audience to give their own opinions.

Contributions from a wide range of ages and backgrounds all reached a similar conclusion - that youth had every reason to be angry but that rioting helped nobody. However, unlike the hypocritical condemnation being spouted by the press and politicians, everyone who spoke wanted to seriously reflect on why the riots had broken out and, crucially, suggest ways to help the youth and community productively organise action over the many grievances facing working people across all of London's communities.

Before the meeting, YF4J had held a protest against the closure of youth services by Haringey's Labour Council. Plans were outlined to organise further demonstrations to oppose council cuts in the future.

David Lammy, Tottenham's Labour MP, came in for strong criticism for his failure to explain the real grievances facing local people and for not speaking out against the cuts and the stop-and-search harassment suffered by local youth. Calls for community campaigns and trade unions to stand their own anti-cuts candidates in the London Assembly elections were applauded.

The vindictive sentences being handed out on rioters were contrasted with the 'looting' of our services and taxes by the wealthy - with Osborne now suggesting he will even abolish the 50p tax rate for the wealthy.

A local youth, Young Deacon, performed "Failed by the System" that has so much more to say about the riots than the demonisation of black youth being spouted by many of the tabloids. Have a look on:

Zoe, a young teacher, spoke at her anger about the way that youth were being scapegoated in the media and for the way many pupils were labelled as 'failures' at an early age. Others pointed out that the killing of Mark Duggan by the police, the incident that had sparked the riots in the first place, must not be forgotten. Youth Fight for Jobs have been calling for an independent trade-union and community led enquiry into his death.

Trade unionists also spoke about the need for unions to show a way forward by taking strike action against cuts and austerity - especially by continuing and extending the action against pensions in the autumn. Many present said they would be be attending the NSSN Rally and Lobby on September 11th to call on the TUC to organise co-ordinated strike action across the public sector. Nina Franklin, NUT President, will be speaking as well as Bob Crow from the RMT and Mark Serwotka from the PCS.

When teachers return to school in September, both teachers and school students will undoubtedly be discussing the shocking events of August. We certainly don't need lectures from the press, politicians and the powerful to follow their high moral standards!

Teachers, as ever, will be trying to offer genuine support and help to young people so that they can make the most of the opportunities open to them and not follow the dead-end of rioting. However, teachers and students alike will be increasingly asking what opportunities are really available to embrace the many talents of our youngsters? It's not enough for Ministers to condemn 'criminality', it is their responsibility to provide decent jobs, training and education for our school leavers.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Don't Riot - Build a mass movement to defeat Con Dem cuts

 This press release from the Socialist Party calls on the trade unions to build a mass workers’ movement as the real answer to anger of inner cities:

The Socialist Party opposes rioting. It only damages the communities in which working-class people live, gives an excuse to increase the repressive apparatus of the state and allows the government to further demonise young people. This detracts from examining the underlying causes of the riots - poverty, alienation and a lack of opportunities for a generation of young people.

Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, says, “The government has abolished the EMA grant, despite mass protests, which had at least made it possible for working class young people to attend college. Despite endless demands on young people to 'better themselves' and 'get an education' the one concrete measure that made it possible to get an education has now been taken away. In addition, the raising of university tuition fees to £9,000 a year has deterred many working class youth from considering the avenue of higher education. This comes on top of nearly one million unemployed young people. Is it any wonder, in a society that encourages private entrepreneurs to make a profit by any means necessary, that unemployed youth decide to try and obtain a few goods by whatever means they can?”

Hannah Sell, comments “The failure of the majority of the leadership of the trade union movement in Britain to lead a serious struggle to defeat all the cuts is a central reason why the riots have erupted. Having delayed, the TUC needs to act decisively now by clearly putting forward an alternative to the governments cuts agenda and taking concrete steps towards organising a day of coordinated public sector strike action in the autumn, which this time should involve all 4 million public sector workers, and be combined with a one-day strike of school, college and university students. This would act as a pole of attraction for the most oppressed sections of young people.”

On 11 September, the Socialist Party will take part in a lobby of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conference in London. The lobby has been called by the National Shop Stewards Network and has been backed by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS). The lobby will demand that the TUC take immediate measures to call a 24-hour public sector general strike.

Further analysis on the response to the riots from the Government and others is on:

Thursday 11 August 2011

Mindless media ignore real issues behind riots
This article from Irish Socialist MEP Paul Murphy takes up the 'mindless' media response to the riots in Britain:

Like many in Ireland, I have been intently watching the unfolding of the riots in Britain.
Because all of it is filtered through the lens of the media, the first thing that has struck me is the incredibly superficial nature of the coverage. The rule appears to be that the rioting has to be described as “mindless”. So, the BBC and Sky News race to see who can use the terms “mindless thuggery” and “mindless criminality” more often. Today, David Cameron referred to the “mindless selfishness” of the rioters!
The Law and Order brigade has of course surpassed itself. The right-wing gutter press in England has launched a call to “Sweep scum off our streets” and “Shop a moron”. My fellow MEP, British Tory Roger Helmer, has called for the rioters to be “shot on sight”. There is widespread talk of bringing in the army or using plastic bullets against the rioters. New Labour’s response has been no better, with Ed Miliband calling for “the strongest possible police response”.
Any attempt to look beyond the “mindless criminality” to the reasons for these riots is denounced as amateur sociology or political point scoring. Of course, the riots do not offer any way forward. It is working class people’s homes and cars that are being burnt and many small shopkeepers have had their stores burnt out. It is also giving the establishment an excuse to strengthen the hand of the police – a force that will be used against trade unionists and campaigners in the future.
However, to argue that there are fundamental social roots to this cry of rage and despair should not be particularly controversial. While there is undoubtedly a conscious criminal element taking advantage of the rioting for their own ends, thousands of young people across Britain do not take part in rioting for “mindless” reasons. That is not to say that those who are participating in the rioting are doing it with thought-out political reasons and aims, but that there are deep social roots that explain the reason for this massive outburst.
Some of the youtube interviews with young people participating in or observing the rioting give an insight. A repeated theme is that of young people having no future. They have no prospect of a job and they can’t afford the goods that are advertised to them. The other feature is anger at police harassment, unfair stop-and-search policies, and deaths in police custody (almost 100 in the last five years), despite all of the commentary to the effect that police relations with these communities have improved.
The incident that immediately provoked the riot was the killing of Mark Duggan by the police. Despite the initial claims of the police that he was killed in a firefight, it has now been admitted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission that he did not fire his gun. The two shots that were fired were both fired by the police. A protest was led by Mr. Duggan’s family to the police station demanding an explanation for his death. At this protest, a 16 year old young woman appears to have been brutally treated by the police, which proved to be the trigger for the rioting.
With cutbacks to social services, which have been carried out by New Labour and worsened by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, communities have been torn apart. Young people have been hit particularly hard by this and by the impact of the economic crisis generally. There are almost a million unemployed people in Britain with young people in London face unemployment of 23%, with much higher rates in the inner cities areas across Britain. The areas that have seen the greatest amount of rioting also face the highest levels of youth unemployment – this is no coincidence! Any prospect of going to college has been hit hard by the abolition of the EMA grant and the raising of tuition fees to £9,000 per year. Youth services have also been drastically cut – by 75% in Tottenham.
The riots clearly involve young people from all ethnic groups. However, racism against black young people and other ethnic minorities is also a factor. It is a fact that all ethnic minorities in Britain still earn less, on average, than white people, they suffer from higher than average rates of poverty and they often face the brunt of police harassment. From 2005 to 2009 police searches of Asian people increased 84% and black people by 51%.
While increased police repression together with a natural diminishing of the numbers involved may bring the situation under control in the coming days, it will not deal with these underlying issues, which are likely to worsen rather than improve. It means that the potential for further flare-ups and riots is inherent in the situation. While the calls by many working class people for increased police presence on the streets to stop the violence are understandable, more police on the streets will not ultimately solve this situation. This is demonstrated by the fact that it was the police action in killing Mark Duggan that provoked the riots in the first place. Instead of simply calling for increased police numbers, a key question is what kind of police force should we have – there is a need for a police force, purged of racist elements, that is democratically controlled by and accountable to the communities it is supposed to be working on behalf of.
It also underlines the crucial role for a lead to be given by the trade union and workers’ movement in Britain. By leading a major campaign against cuts and unemployment, the trade union movement could point a way forward to young people who want to fight back against the attacks that they are suffering from. More immediately, there would appear to be a need for the trade unions and community activists to initiate democratically accountable committees to organise defence of people’s homes and communities as well as campaigning against the cuts to vital services. In the absence of that, one of the dangers that exists is the far-right posing themselves as the defenders of predominantly white areas and trying to turn the riots into a race issue.
One of the questions people will be asking in Ireland is whether these kind of events can happen here? I think it’s the case that there is a larger proportion of young people in Britain completely alienated from society than in Ireland. However, it’s also true that the same basic conditions in terms of youth unemployment and cuts to social services, also exist in Ireland. There are tens of thousands of young people with no real prospect of a job, including thousands living in extremely deprived areas of the major cities. So the basic combustible material for these inchoate explosions of rage does exist in Ireland.
A crucial task facing socialists is to organise amongst these young people on the key questions of youth unemployment, cutbacks and generally fighting for a future for young people. In that way, the justified anger and rage can be channelled into a movement for fundamental socialist change, to use the vast resources that exist in our society not to bailout the bankers and developers, but to provide jobs, homes and services for all.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

National Shop Stewards Network Statement on Riots

Statement from NSSN:
Back in September 2009 TUC general secretary Brendan Barber predicted that the government’s cuts would lead to riots. His prediction has been borne out as riots have broken out across London and other cities. The initial riots in Tottenham in the borough of Haringey on the 6-7th August were a consequence of the fatal shooting by police of 29 year old Mark Duggan. Most of the rioting that has taken place so far has been in areas of high deprivation such as Tottenham where 10,000 people in Haringey are claiming jobseekers allowance.

Contrary to reports from some politicians and media, the rioting and looting that took place was not just the result of ‘outsiders’ or ‘hooligans’ but was a spontaneous outpouring of the anger of sections of the local population, particularly young people from every ethnic background. Contrary to the media reports, these were not race riots but involved young people from every ethnic background.

However, whilst rioting is an understandable reaction of rage to the conditions so many working class people face it does not offer a way forward. As a result of these riots local shops and services have been badly hit and people have been burned out of their flats. During the riots around London on Sunday night and since, several  fire crews and ambulance workers  were attacked. There are also reports that a bus driver was attacked before his bus was set on fire. These attacks are completely unacceptable and make it even more urgent for the labour movement to provide an alternative.

There is anger both with the  police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the death of Mark Duggan. The family is angry that no-one from the police has discussed Mark’s death with them. The protestors on Saturday evening were also angry that no senior police officer was prepared to meet them then. There is no trust in the police, particularly following their lies about the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 and Ian Tomlinson last year as well as many other incidences, including the framing of Winston Silcott and the ‘Tottenham Three’ during the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985, and their collusion with the Murdoch press.

There is growing anger against cuts to essential services.  Issues affecting young people include the closure of youth centres, the attacks on EMA which help young people to continue their education and of course youth unemployment where 914,000 young people between 16 and 24  are unemployed.. The government’s all-out assault on public services includes cutting EMA and trebling university tuition fees to £9000 a year.

Labour MPs such as David Lammy and Diane Abbott alongside Haringey Labour council leader Claire Kober and Theresa May, the Tory Home Secretary have condemned the rioting  and looting.  But what about the looting of public services and jobs carried out by their parties either through government or council cuts?

Whilst Brendan Barber had predicted these riots, he and the TUC have not offered an alternative by demonstrating they are capable of leading a movement to defend living conditions. Unfortunately, Barber actually welcomed the below-inflation increases in the minimum wage. The trade union movement must show there is an alternative in order to counter frustration and social breakdown.

The huge demonstration on 26th March and the strike of three quarters of a million teaching and civil service workers on 30th June have given some idea of the strength that organised workers have. A successful one-day public-sector strike will be a big step forward in the battle against the cuts. That is why the NSSN is organizing a lobby of the TUC on 11th September to demand that they name the day for such action. A successful battle against the cuts nationally and locally, whilst not solving all the problems that these communities  face, would be a big boost in the struggle to improve ordinary people’s living conditions in the area.

A genuinely independent inquiry led by the local community and trade unions into the death of Mark Duggan.
No to all cuts in jobs and services – youth service funding should be re-instated.
Demand back the money stolen by the government to bail out the banks.
Immediate re-housing by of all those who lost their homes as a result of the rioting.
Cancel tuition fees, for a proper living grant and re-instate the educational maintenance allowance.
The TUC to call a one-day strike of all public-sector trade unions as the next step in the battle to defeat all cuts in jobs and services.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Youth Fight for Jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs meeting:
London burning: public meeting and protest for youth services in Tottenham

Tuesday 16 August 2011
7pm meeting, at North London Community House, 22 Moorefield Road, London N17 6PY
Protest to demand youth services and jobs: 5:30pm, at Haringey Youth Services, 10 Bruce Grove, Tottenham, London N17 6RA
Youth Fight for Jobs and Turkish and Kurdish youth organisation Day-Mer Youth, have called a public meeting in response to the riots in the area.

As riots escalate in London and spread to other parts of the country, Youth Fight for Jobs calls for the building of a mass democratic and organised movement to fight for jobs, investment in youth facilities and all public services including fire services, against all cuts, for decent housing and against police harassment.

Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs national organiser says: "These events, sparked by the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, have shown the anger that exists among young people across the country over joblessness, lack of youth clubs and services, police harassment, education cuts and a host of other issues.

"Over the past 30 years Tory and Labour governments alike have closed youth centres leaving young working class people with nothing to do. Young people feel they are not being listened to.

"Meanwhile the bankers and the rich get away with millions in unpaid tax, MPs get away with their false expenses claims and when we do get a job it's on poverty pay.

"We do not however believe that rioting can solve these problems. We call for the building of a mass democratic movement of all working class and young people.

"It is such movements, involving and organised by working class communities that have made serious achievements in the past. It was such a campaign that saw millions refuse to pay the hated poll tax in the early nineties that defeated that measure and saw off Thatcher.

"Youth Fight for Jobs seeks to bring together young people with trade unionists and students. The enormous trade union demo on 26 March showed the strength of the trade union movement and the strikes by teachers and civil servants on 30 June showed that working class people, when organised and united, can stand up to bullying politicians.

"We are demanding real jobs not slave labour, free education and saying no to all public sector cuts.

"Actions like the Jarrow march for jobs in October and future trade union action will play an important part in building that movement."

This week's riots in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and elsewhere represent an expression of the huge anger that has been building among young people for a long time.

And no wonder. Almost one in five young people are out of work, and this number is much higher in many of the areas affected by disturbances.

Young people face a barrage of attacks from the Con-Dem government. The scrapping of EMA student payments and the huge hike in tuition fees mean education is out of many young people's reach.

To add to the tension, young people, particularly black youth and those from other ethnic minorities routinely face discrimination and stop and search harassment at the hands of the police.

Youth Fight for Jobs was launched in 2009 in response to rising levels of youth unemployment. We now have the support of the PCS, RMT, UNITE, CWU, UCU, BECTU and TSSA trade unions and are recreating the Jarrow March in October / November.

To find out more visit or call 020 8558 7947 or email

After riots erupt - build a mass movement
Socialist Party statement

The Socialist Party demands:
An independent trade union-led inquiry into the death of Mark Duggan and into the causes of and policing of the riots. Scrap the IPCC. We need police accountability through democratic control by local people.
End stop and search. No to section 60.
For control of the police to be placed under the auspices of democratically elected local committees involving representatives from trade unions, councils, tenants associations, and community organisations.
For the government to immediately cover the uninsured losses and repairs of all small businesses and homeowners affected by the riots.
For councils to immediately re-house those who lost their homes in the riots. For investment in social house building and renovation, creating jobs and improving health.
For the immediate reversal of the closure of local youth and Connexions services. Funding from central government to pay for it.
No to all cuts in jobs and public services. Free education and training for all. Reinstate EMA and abolish tuition fees. We demand huge public investment in job creation and services.
Build a mass campaign to fight for these demands but also to fight for socialist change in the way society is run, with democratic planning of how we use the wealth and resources of society - under working class control and management, not that of the millionaires.

PCS statement on riots