26 May 2013
SOUTH LONDON Unite the Resistance was launched last Thursday in the Karibu Centre, Brixton, bringing together over 60 people.
Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy secretary, spoke from the platform, describing this government’s education policy as “the biggest attack on working class ambitions for generations” and the idea that you can be a teacher until 68 as “reprehensible”.
Courtney linked the attacks on teachers’ pay and conditions as the first step in a Tory plan to entirely deregulate the national pay scheme for teachers and to create a situation where privateers can make a profit out of our education. This is a strategy he sees echoed across the public sector.
Paul Embery, FBU London regional secretary said: “We need a concerted fightback. The austerity agenda is failing; the economy is flatlining; and public services are under serious attack. We need to invoke the ‘Spirit of 45′ by organising across the working-class movement to demand something better.
“We don’t want a return to mass unemployment and poverty. We want decent jobs and public services, economic fairness and social justice. How this battle plays out could define politics for a generation.”
Sarah Murdock, Lambeth and Southwark DWP PCS branch organiser, discussed cuts to welfare attacks and the fact that benefit recipients are facing attacks at the same time as the staff dealing with benefits are themselves facing wage freezes and job losses. She said we need to resist the government’s attempt to pit working people against benefit recipients.
The meeting came the day after the Woolwich attack and Murdock also spoke of the urgent need for trade unionist and activists to oppose any backlash against muslims and racist attacks in the aftermath.
There were many contributions from the floor from trade unionists who are feeling the effects of austerity and cuts and who want to mount a challenge to job losses and attacks on pay and conditions in their workplaces and beyond.
Angus Pickthall from Lambeth College UCU talked about the college management’s plans to make £2-3m of cuts, which would result in the loss of the A-level program and 30-40 full-time staff jobs. Pickthall called upon local trade union branches to support the UCU demo on 15 June.
London fire fighters have been involved in a campaign to stop the closure of Clapham fire station. One FBU member addressed the meeting, saying: “This is a class attack from their side. They are coordinated on their side, we need to be equally coordinated on our side.”
He added: “We support our union leaders when they call the action and when they don’t we criticise them. It’s the same for the Labour Party.”
A lawyer explained that cuts to legal aid have spurred lawyers to take the unusual step of taking strike action.
There was a general sense in the meeting that we had to support other trade unionists in their struggles aginst austerity and attempt to link up action, where possible. The biggest cheer from the floor on the night came when someone spoke of the need for extended coordinated strike action.
Kevin Courtney closed the meeting with a call for action: “Strike action should begin; it should be national and it shouldn’t stop because of the outcome of an election.”