Solidarity 346, 3 December 2014

Firefighters battle government austerity


Darren Bedford

Firefighters showed the government the depth of their anger over pensions and cuts last week when they successfully disrupted a planned media event around a new fire station in south London on 25 November.

Fire minister Penny Mordaunt was met by 200 angry firefighters when she arrived at the new West Norwood fire station, blocking the entrance and preventing the car from getting in. As the vehicle sped away, cries of “1 – 0 to the FBU!” rang out.

Industrial news in brief


Gemma Short and Charlotte Zalens

Following a re-ballot which returned 83% in favour of strikes on a 58% turn out, Lambeth College UCU will be on their first day of new strikes on Thursday 4 December.

The dispute is over changes to contracts which see two weeks cut off annual holidays, a massive reduction in sick pay entitlement, and extra hours of teaching with no extra pay. UCU members at Lambeth college were re-balloted following a court injunction against their previous indefinite strike plan.

Solidarity with migrants against Labour-Tory attacks

Last month Labour said they want to increase the time new EU migrants have to wait before claiming in-work benefits — to two years. Not to be outdone in a disgusting competition to be toughest on migrants, Cameron announced he wanted EU migrants to work for four years before being eligible to claim.

Mobilise against council cuts!



The Local Government Association, which represents local councils, warned on 19 November that "services will buckle under the strain of further cuts".

Back in July it had already warned: "The funding gap is growing at an average of £2.1 billion a year, adding up to £12.4 billion by the end of [this] decade".

The National Audit Office has estimated (1 November) a 37% real-terms reduction in government funding to local authorities between 2010-11 to 2015-16.

Local authorities with the highest levels of disadvantage are facing the greatest cuts.

Occupy needs politics


Andy Forse

After being evicted by the police from their nine day occupation of Parliament Square in October, a new movement called “Occupy Democracy” attempted to reclaim the Square on Friday 21 of November.

Police repressed the direct action. The former deputy chairman of the Liberal Democrats, Donnachadh McCarthy, was arrested.

The demonstration continued nearby, with speakers including NHS campaigner Lucy Reynolds and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett and a total around 200 people participating. One protester chained himself to the railings of parliament.

Dutch anti-racists ask for help

Ninety demonstrators were arrested in Gouda, in the Netherlands, on 15 November, when they peacefully protested against a “Black Pete” show.

The Netherlands celebrates a Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) day on 5 December, and since the middle of the 19th century the figure dressed up as Santa Claus is often accompanied by another, “Black Pete”, who is “blacked up” to represent a Santa Claus’s servant or slave.

Limited tax powers for Scotland


Dale Street

The cross-party Smith Commission on further Scottish devolution — set up following the “No” vote in September’s Scottish referendum — published its report last week.

The Scottish Parliament will have the power to set its own income tax rates and the income levels at which these are paid. Around half of VAT receipts will be allocated to the Scottish government’s budget. Control over Air Passenger Duty will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Stop landlord rip-offs:control rents!


Colin Foster

The tenants’ campaign on the New Era estate in Hoxton, east London, has spotlighted the rise of a fight back by private tenants.

“When our estate was bought by new owners”, say the New Era tenants, “we were given rent rises of 10% and told to expect greater rises next year, as the new owners wanted rents to be at ‘market levels’. In Hoxton... this means over £500 a week”.

Current rents are about £160 a week, so most tenants face being forced out of their homes.

Three trends have come together.

Support Gahyun Lee!

Gahyun Lee was dismissed from her job at a McDonald’s outlet in Yeokgok, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea following her visit to Los Angeles earlier that month to support the national action by US fast food workers.

Management had previously warned her about union activity in May — citing a phone call from the head office — after she denounced wage and scheduling manipulation and unsafe workplace practices at a May 15 Seoul rally in support of global fast food workers.

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