Food for thought … Stitched up: The Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation.
Tag Archives: Cuts
The following is the text of a leaflet given out in Nottingham in March 2011 around the time of the City and County Council budget setting meetings. The full leaflet can be found below and as an attached PDF: Everything we have won they want it back [PDF].
Anarchist organisations such the Anarchist Federation are active against the cuts and wider austerity measures internationally. Here we set out the way that we see the cuts in Britain in the context of the build-up for the TUC’s forthcoming March for the Alternative on 26th March in London.
The following is an interview with an anarchist support worker in Sheffield AF’s local paper The Fargate Speaker. We reproduce it here as it might strike a chord with support workers in Notts. It also highlights one important feature of the cuts. Companies who have relied on council funds that are being cut, are responding by employing agency workers, a practice that seems to be increasing in both the private and public sector.
And this is set to become worse since the forthcoming work-for-your-benefits regime ‘The Work Programme’ involves compulsory places of claimants into short term ‘jobs’ which have many of the same characteristics of unskilled agency working. In Notts, the downside of the Future Jobs Fund, whose cut by the Con-Dems is much lamented by Labour MPs and councillors, has not gone unnoticed. The FJF may be no more under the Con-Dems, but its replacement through grants such as the European Social Fund or other sources yet to be determined may well see people placed for training or ‘work experience’ into positions that have just been vacated by workers who have been made redundant.
Worse still we are finding that charities like Mencap, MIND and Scope are linking up to bid to become back-to-work providers, whose victims will be the people they aim to support when they get kicked off disability benefits and allowances by ongoing welfare reforms. The article below explains the distress this is already causing.
So the ‘people with learning disabilities and mental health issues’ below who now find themselves supported by agency workers, may in turn end up being placed into workfare jobs through the Work Programme that are all coodinated by a charity consortium! And so it goes around.
Interview with an anarchist support worker – Sheffield
The Fargate Speaker talks to a local support worker about the problems in social care as a result of the recession and the proposed austerity measures.
I work as a support worker for a private company that provides social care for people in Sheffield for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. The company I work operates across the city. According to government officials, cuts to public spending will not harm front line services, workers, or service users. The reality of the situation is that working conditions are getting worse, day services are closing down, and those paying for the support services are being excluded from any of the decisions relating to care they supposedly direct and influence.
The Sheffield city council budget has been slashed by 8.35% for next year, and this has amounted to a huge cut to front line care. What this has amounted to on the ground is a huge reduction in staffing levels, pushing local unemployment even higher. Those left in the job are left with the unenviable task of filling in the gaps, which means being over worked, and stressed. Many care workers, some with over 20 years experience, are finding it too stressful to carry on, and are walking away from the job, meaning that the most qualified staff in the company are leaving, while new employees, who often aren’t given a decent (and legally required) level of training before they are left to work with clients. This is dangerous to both clients, who often have serious health issues, and to workers, who are not given help to do the job safely (some clients have histories of challenging behaviour, violence etc)
Many of the people I work with have been sent into intense panic, fearing that their disability benefits will be cut and that they will be forced onto a work fare scheme in order to claim. This has led to increased difficulties at work, which again impacts upon the well being of clients and staff. For staff, we have been given an indefinite pay freeze (rates of pay are already extremely low – and the price of food, bills, rent etc has risen fairly sharply in recent months) and a loss of a chance of promotion and advancement within the company. The tactics of management have in recent weeks been an attempt to shift responsibility downwards. In essence, this means an unpaid promotion – increased work hours and responsibilities without extra pay. People are worried, and the constant upheavals in company policy leave staff and clients confused. Many people within the company care deeply about the people they support, and the fact that they are leaving is causing massive emotional stress on all sides.
The company I work for claims to be not-for-profit, this tends to give people the impression that the company operates with some kind of ethical policy. The reality is that instead of money being invested in desperately needed equipment for staff (such as computers that are less than a decade old) instead money has been spent on redecorating the offices of the executive managers and the reception area of the company (in order to make it ‘look more professional’ – the appearance of good care being more easily achieved than the practice of good care).
The company has also engaged in the bizarre tactic of employing agency staff to work as short term “bank workers” in order to plug the gaps created by the redundancies they have introduced. This means that for every worker the company gets from an agency they are paying for two (agencies charge ‘service rates’ which are roughly the same as the employees wages). Essentially this means that the company is firing experienced and dedicated workers to employ untrained and short term agency workers, while paying double the cost for the privilege. The reasons behind this plan seem fairly obvious. Agency workers are in a precarious position, and if they complain about being over worked, and under paid then they can be fired with no notice, whereas an employee cannot. The changes that management want to bring in over the next few months require a work force that does not feel secure, and able to resist the exploitation that is happening.
Sorry we’ve been away for a while! Since publishing Organise! # 75 and Resistance #127 nationally, as the AF’s first major statements on what lay ahead for the working class under the ConDems, we haven’t paused for breath, to tell you the truth. Here’s a little of what’s been going on…
Where to start? Let’s start with the students!
Last week on Tuesday 30th November, 150 students began an occupation at the University of Nottingham in the Great Hall of the Trent Building. The demands of Nottingham Students Against Cuts and Fees are those of thousands of students occupying universities throughout Britain: scrap the fees and stop the cuts, because we simply don’t believe that there is no alternative.
On Friday 3rd December the occupation was temporarily suspended after the Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Greenaway climbed down and agreed to debate with students in a public meeting that took place tonight (Monday 6th December). This is the first time that senior management at the university has been forced to take the students demands about fees and cuts seriously.The meeting was controversial in that only people who could produce University of Nottingham I.D. were allowed in by the university security. As students speaking from the floor pointed out, it is sixth form and college students who will be affected by the increase in top-up fees, and they should be allowed to have their say. Still, the UoN students put forward the views of the younger students who had come to support the occupation.
The V.C. said that he believes that Higher Education is a privilege, not a right. There isn’t enough money to pay for teaching it anymore, he also said, and so the people who will benefit from their own education have to pay for it themselves. He seemed to think that the students would disagree with his opinion, which they certainly did, but they also made it very clear that he was seriously missing the point. Education, to these students, is not primarily about how much they will earn in future; it is about engaging critically with the world, working out how it works and how to challenge it; it’s also about aspiring to work in notoriously low paid sectors, to do socially beneficial work. Several students were quite insulted about his assumption that we all want to get rich!
Another way in which Greenaway badly missed the point was in stressing several times that if Labour were in power, they’d be doing pretty much the same thing as the Tories and Lib Dems; also, that we already had top-up fees anyway, which were introduced by Labour! Er…we know that! Did he really think he had a couple of hundred Labour voters in sitting in front of him, blissfully unaware of what has been going on these past years? In fact, not one single student responded to vindicate Blair and Brown and, as one pointed out, the fact that they all have the same policy is why nobody bothers to vote!
These students refuse to believe that what is taking place is anything other than ideological; the turning over of education to neo-Liberal values and with instrumentalist aims for those entering it. This recession is a gift to the market. The students challenged the university management to stand up for education rather than for the market, although without illusions that it will. The V.C. in fact made it clear that, as he put it, “the die is cast”, and we just have to accept it.
Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Professor Greenaway! These students aren’t the ones who will suffer if top up fees reach £6,000 or £9,000. They are taking action for tomorrow’s would-be students. M.P.s who think that voting this crap through on Thursday 9th will sort things out once and for all, should be shaking in their boots. In Nottingham and nationally, the students are not going away. It’ll take more than the conveniently-timed end of term the next day to keep this lot distracted. They are self-organised, autonomous, motivated by a passion for social justice, and they are really fucking pissed off with people like you!
Prof. Greenaway, by your own admission you had access to a full-fees and maintenance grant, and you also had dole and housing benefit payments in the holidays when you were a student in Liverpool in the 1970s. Who are you to deny an education to people committed to funding themselves but not to lining bankers’ pockets? Who are you to threaten and cut jobs of staff through UoN’s trendy new ‘all in it together’ drive for austerity? Universities are supposed to be places where ideas are tested and contested. While you’re mulling it over Prof., and considering whether the students might have a point, think on to when the university will be re-occupied after the holiday! Have some respect for the students please, and this time turn the heating and the internet in the Great Hall back on! You petty people are bosses and bullies, not educators.
Brilliantly, almost the first thing NSACF did was link up with the more Nottingham city-focussed campaigns at Nottingham Trent (previously with even less of a tradition of radicalism than UoN, if that’s possible), local FE college and sixth-form students, and even school kids themselves, the ones who all this is really about. These younger students are angry at threats to EMA. The Trent and F.E. students had called a demo in the Square and a march on Saturday 4th December, the perfect antidote to the sleet and slush, and the newly liberated UoN students turned up in force too.
The march joined up with the local campaign shaming Vodaphone and other massive tax-dodgers for one of the funniest ‘roaming demos’ we’ve been on in ages. Actually the static Vodaphone demo itself was excruciating in the extreme. We in the AF seem to have developed a speech impediment which won’t let us chant “They say Cut Back; We say Pay Tax”, even though we really want to be non-sectarian at the moment and have a good working relationship with everyone genuinely challenging the cuts. Maybe because that’s one of the most pathetically reformist and misleading slogans we’ve ever heard, and doesn’t genuinely challenge anything. Should we really be making out that if Vodaphone, Boots and Top Shop bosses paid their taxes the ConDems would halt their ideological attack on everyone they didn’t go to Public School with?
Luckily, the mood of the roaming demo itself was very naughty. Students and the rest of us marauded around the Victoria shopping centre for half an hour weaving in and out of the said shops, having a good laugh with shoppers, who definitely got the point, and probably helping out the shoplifters too by attracting all the security to us. Even the cops were laughing! (OK, we don’t want to make them laugh and want them to fuck off, but it was rather funny). The day was rounded off with a student assembly organised by the Trent students, where the amazing events that have recently taken place were analysed by people with all sorts of perspectives, and even better plans were made for the future.
This UoN and Nottingham Trent activity around fees and cuts began a couple of weeks back, but it hasn’t been the only action in the city. Nottingham Claimants’ Action has been formed, there’s a Sneinton Against the Cuts group, an Anarchists Against the Cuts and a really important campaign to save ESOL provision (English for Speakers of a Foreign Langauge).
But the biggest show in town is Notts. Save Our Services. This can tell its own story, with its extensive website being updated several times a day to bring information about its own and everyone else’s activity together. The highlight so far is the 1,100-strong demonstration in the city on November 20th and there’s a county-wide conference planned for January 15th. See its latest newsletter
Finally, the Tory-led County Council is embracing the cuts like they are a long-lost child, and made it plain as soon as they got their majority that they don’t give a shit about anyone else. But the Labour-led City Council have embarked on slashing jobs and services too, with shocking compliancy, apparently believing that everyone would buy that we are ‘all in this together’. Their first response to being challenged NOT to make cuts was to whine that it was illegal and that if they set a deficit budget they’d be taken to court. We said “So fucking what if you lose your houses and cars rather than of making thousands jobless, homeless and without support?” Now it turns out that legally they wouldn’t even face that!
Some Labour loyalists still don’t see that the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem councillors are pretty much as bad as each other when it comes down to it, except that the former are cowards into the bargain. They insist on playing down what JoCo & Co. are up to, as though it wasn’t as bad as Cutts & Co. Given that Notts AF all live and work in areas where it is Labour councillors who are calling the shots, we pledge to be the scourge of the Labour Group from here on….Just watch this space…and many others!
The below is something a member of Nottingham AF wrote for the Notts SOS blog giving an outline of what is happening locally within his workplace, the local NHS community healthcare services.
A Nottingham NHS worker speaks frankly about his, his workmates’, and his family and friends’ situations under the continuing threat of cuts that will no doubt be familiar to many others, and urges everyone to get involved with Notts SOS. Continue reading