Saturday, February 12, 2011

Woolwich anti-cuts demo (& Charlton win)

A guest post from Simon Pirani reports on today's anti-cuts demonstration in Woolwich and from the same end of town, on Charlton's home win:

About 150 people – mainly council workers, anti-cuts campaigners and political activists – marched through Woolwich today chanting “stop the cuts”, to the sound of drums and whistles. Leaflets were handed out to shoppers.

It was the first labour movement demonstration in Woolwich for years – 17 years after the last really big one, a march from Plumstead Common demanding the closure of the BNP headquarters at Welling.

The march was an attempt by union activists on the council to broaden their campaign against £65 million worth of cuts by Greenwich council, which for decades has been run by the Labour Party like a one-party state. The first £27 million of cuts have been identified, including:

- 240 job losses in areas including Older Peoples Services, Childrens Services and Services for the disabled. The standard of service will be wrecked, with waiting times increasing dramatically for services such as Occupational Therapy.

- There will be cuts to posts in day centres and care staff working with the elderly. The Play and Youth Service will disappear; mother-and-toddler groups will go. Charges will rise for council services such as Homecare, Day Centres and Allotments.

- There’s a threat to close the wonderful animal park at Maryon Wilson Park in Charlton, a key part of the education of generations of schoolchildren in the borough. And it will become expensive for local families to use the Boating Centre at Southmere.

- There are proposals to transfer libraries to a trust, or to have them run by volunteers.

The leadership of the union representing council workers, Unison, “prepared” (ha!) for the cuts onslaught by victimising the secretary of the local union branch, Onay “Kaz” Kasab, and then putting the branch under “regional supervision”, i.e. effectively winding it up.

“Kaz” is a member of the Socialist Party. Together with three other members who held official positions in Unison, Glenn Kelly (Bromley), Suzanne Muna (Housing Association) and Brian Debus (Hackney), he has been banned from holding office in the union. The four were witch-hunted on bizarre, trumped-up charges of racism. Their real crime was politically disagreeing with the bureaucrats now running Unison. Details of their lengthy legal case against Unison, which recently resulted in an Employment Tribunal finding in their favour, are here:

In Greenwich, the Unison bureaucrats’ desperate actions – against an activist who has a reputation for encouraging workplace organisation and capably representing individual council employees in disputes with the employer – have led to council employees (dozens at least, maybe a couple of hundred) moving over to join the Unite union.

The march was largely council workers and labour movement activists. But it was a start, in a borough where community organisation has been patchy over the years.

Charlton 3 Peterborough 2

For football supporters in the borough (including your correspondent), the day got even better in the afternoon, when Charlton Athletic beat Peterborough 3-2 in a thrilling game at the Valley. Peterborough were 1-0 up at half time, but two Charlton goals in the 57th and 59th minute turned the tables. There was another goal apiece in the last 15 minutes. This keeps up Charlton’s hopes of promotion from “league one” (the third division to you and me) to “the championship” (the second division).

The mood at the Valley has improved in recent weeks. New owners have taken over the club; Phil Parkinson (nice but not effective) was replaced as manager by Chris Powell (incredibly popular as a player at Charlton, and, taking up his first job as a manager, becomes one of the few black managers in league football). They are selling tickets for the game next Saturday (19 February), against Exeter, for a fiver, in a drive to get fans back in bigger numbers to live games.

No comments: