Archive for the ‘NSSN’ Category

No to the bedroom tax

June 30, 2013

Notes from Tommy Sheridan’s speech at the National Shop Stewards Network Conference, Saturday 29th June 2013.

Tommy had been to 73 meetings all over Scotland, where 80 local anti-bedroom tax capaigns have been set up. Affiliations from union branches and trades councils had been built – it was necessary to put demands on the official movement. The Scottish Trades Council is hosting a conference against the bedroom tax. The anti-bedroom tax movement is growing.

Tommy said he was not personally affected, but he was personally offended by the bedroom tax. “You stand with me, I’ll stand with you” – is the motto of the movement.

He gave the example of a couple in Inverness – one was suffering from multiple sclerosis, and had to be confined to a wheelchair as a result. Her husband gave up his job to be a full-time carer, saving the state £10,000s a year. She has a special bed, which she needs for pain relief, so they have to sleep in separate rooms. They are now being asked to pay £60 a month from their benefits in bedroom tax. 2,000 families affected in Inverness – the number of council homes available is 164.

Likewise, an amputee has an elderly mother who is 78 and suffers from Alzheimers, so had to move to a care home. They are now deemed to be under-occupying, and are being asked for £60 a month. 5,300 families affected in South Lanarkshir. Number of homes available – 40.

Housing benefit is means tested, therefore it is the poor who are suffering the most from this tax. 660,000 people affected across the UK; 2/3 of these families have a disabled person in the household.

The penalty for non-payment is not prison, but is eviction. We need civil disobedience, we need to form human walls to stop people being evicted. It is scandalous that 500,000 people in the UK, the 7th richest country in the world, rely on food banks, while the income of the top 1,000 people is £400 billion – a rise of £35bn. This is obscene. In the words of the great Irish socialist Jim Larkin, “The powerful appear powerful because we are on our knees. Let us rise up.”

I would just add that we also need to campaign for massive investment in affordable council housing to meet our needs. This would also provide jobs for the thousands of building workers who have been made unemployed by the property crash. Otherwise, more and more families will find themselves on the streets in breadline Britain. It is no use just blaming the Tories and waiting for a Labour government. Labour have made it clear that they will not reverse the cuts made by the ConDem coalition. We need to build an alternative party, to stand up for ordinary people and not the rich. I support TUSC in its attempt to do just that.


You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Nationalise Bombardier to save jobs

July 25, 2011

I went to the Bombardier demonstration through Derby last Saturday.

Around 6,000 people marched through the town in protest at the loss of 1,400 jobs at Britain’s last train manufacturer. Speaking at the rally, Bob Crow of the RMT made the point that he was on the side of German workers as well as English and this was not about “British Jobs for British Workers”.

Derby has links to the train industry for over 150 years. The bogies made at the plant are renowned as the world’s most environmentally friendly construction of their type, being light and strong – the two contradictory goals of any transport designer. However, the government awarded the contract for the expansion of rolling stock for the new Thameslink extension to Siemens, who are trying to poach skills from the Derby plant.

The reason for the decision? Siemens are more expensive than the British option and do not offer the same efficiency of rolling stock, but they can borrow money at a lower rate than Bombardier, having been given a huge contract by Deutschebahn. They also do not recognise trade unions, so this is an attack on workers’ terms and conditions, just to make a more attractive offer on the balance sheet. If you look at the state owned French SNCF, they award their contracts overwhelmingly to French firms, and likewise, perfectly reasonably, in other countries. Why can we not ensure the survival of manufacturing in this country?

Since the demonstration, the government has also been slammed by Bob Crow for lying, saying that it could not alter the contract, which was drawn up by Labour. In fact, Theresa Villiers was looking to cut jobs by awarding the contract to Siemens as a cost-cutting exercise. Siemens is only cheaper on paper, because it does not recognise unions and because it can pay the money up front, but there have also been questions asked about corruption within Siemens itself.

Click here for speeches made at the NSSN public meeting, after the demo – recorded by Dan Fahey.

The Socialist Party stands for the renationalisation of the train network and bus network, with subsidised fares to really tackle global warming. We would provide secure jobs, which could not be taken away on the whim of a government because some company is fiddling the books. We are calling on the government for nationalisation of the rail industry on the basis of workers’ control.

As I was walking round Derby, I saw this inspiring mural of the Derby Silk Mill Lockout of 1833-34. It reminded me of the ethos behind Workers’ Memorial Day – we need to remember the past, but fight for our future!

In October Youth Fight for Jobs will be recreating the Jarrow March against unemployment. It is scandalous that, 75 years since unemployed workers had to walk the hundreds of miles from the North East to London in order to present a petition to the King, we are still campaigning and marching against unemployment in the 21st century.

How can the empty words of the Fib-Dems, Tories, or the rhetoric of the Labour Party be believed? The Murdochgate scandal shows that the party of government and the party of opposition, both wined and dined in an attempt to curry favour with the press. We need to kick both of them out and build a real alternative to represent the interests of the vast majority of people struggling to get by, not a tiny elite. I support the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, which is making an important start in this direction.