"Then we all walked out together..."

Submitted by Matthew on 18 November, 2010 - 11:25

At the Lambeth Living [Lambeth Council’s housing “Arms Length Management Organisation”] staff conference on 8 November there was a lot of anger and nervousness at the announcement of job cuts.

Cuts are coming when directors are on salaries of over £100,000 a year and consultants on thousands a month, and all announced in a hall in London Bridge costing £9000 to hire.

The Chief Executive said nothing precise could be told to staff that day. After she finished her speech the Unison convenor stood up and said the union was angry, an industrial action ballot had been agreed by the union’s London region (with GMB also balloting), and asked staff to leave the conference in protest.

At first people didn’t know what to do, as the convenor marched towards the doors and the Chief Executive tried to mock him. Some of the stewards started to walk towards the doors. Then more staff started to follow them.

In the end people were queuing to get out of the hall, with those who had already left clapping them out.

Over 100 workers left. We had a quick meeting outside and decided we would all return to our workplaces.

It was a great feeling that we hadn’t just sat there, and that we stood up for ourselves. We got buses back together and talked about how industrial action couldn’t come soon enough.

At work the next day all the people who hadn’t walked out said they supported it and most said they would join industrial action.

The following day at the Lambeth Unison branch meeting other members gave us lots of applause and the mood of the meeting, also buoyed up by the student demo, was one of determination.

As one steward put it, we could see the glow of the embers of the anti-cuts fight back.

There was also a lot of support for the Lambeth Save Our Services, where we are linking up with tenants’ organisations, pensioners' groups and local community groups.

Many of us are very proud of what we did and the union is getting stronger by the day, with more members and more stewards. Everyone is talking about standing together and there is not just worry of what is to come, but hope about what we can do to stop it.

• lambethsaveourservices.org

Sheffield Anti-Cuts Campaign to be launched

A new anti-cuts group will be launched in Sheffield on 24 November. The group has the backing of the Trades Council, a number of individual local union branches and other groups.

In the run up to the meeting local activists are leafleting in the city centre and on University campuses.

Thursday 24 November, 6pm, Sheffield Novotel, 50 Arundel Gate.

Adult learners fight back

Vince Brown

Adult education students in Southwark returned to the Calton Centre in Peckham this term to be told that classes were facing near complete closure in the New Year and that the subsidy for those on benefits was to be limited to just one term of one course. A class costing £46 this term would soar to £165 after Christmas!

Each course would also be required to recruit eight new learners each term in order to continue. Classes would close due to an apparent “lack of demand”.

Students and staff quickly came together to form the Southwark Save Adult Learning campaign, leafleting widely, lobbying councillors and gaining great support from local trade unionists and Labour Party members. Southwark Council have agreed to meet with students and have indicated that those on benefits should not face a fee increase next term!

The situation is still unclear, but we are hopeful that the threatened course closures will not take place in January. Fees for the next academic year, however, will be set in February and adult learning is likely to be again under threat. Luckily, we already have a campaign up and running!

• Further information and messages of support to: southwarksaveadultlearning@gmail.com

Save South Manchester Law Centre

Save South Manchester Law Centre organised a protest against its closure for Monday, 15 November outside the Legal Services Commission at Lee House, 90 Great Bridgewater Street in central Manchester.

The proposed closure now coincides with huge cuts in Legal Aid.

The Law Centre was under threat of closure after its funding for immigration work was withdrawn. But there will now be a judicial review.

www.smlc.org.uk

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