Resistance to Public Sector cuts – Bracknell

Work is going ahead in Bracknell to build our, broadly based, anti cuts committee. At a recent stormy meeting of local community groups the area’s National Health Service bosses were given a rough time. As a result of the Coalition Governments cuts we were told that about 450 workers in the local hospitals will lose their jobs. This will result in a loss of beds and services. We have been battling for several years against bed and ward closures at our local hospital; this will clearly need to intensify over the coming period. Val and I led the attack against the health bosses strongly supported by almost all those present. We condemned “care in the community” proposals as merely a cost cutting exercise, likewise the argument that “we are all in this together”. Many people at the meeting aired their distrust at the arguments of the health bosses, especially as they are unelected and unaccountable and in spite of the many promises over the years that we would get our own hospital all we are seeing are staff cuts and cuts to services.

We raised the need to build resistance to these polices and called for support for the launch of our Anti Cuts Committee on 29th July, on the initiative of our trade union branch. This call was supported by the hospital workers representative from the platform. So far we have support for our meeting from the local Labour Party, Reading Shop Stewards Network (which includes trade unionists from the RMT, Unison, National Union of Teachers, and the IWW), UNITE, GMB, Greens, Socialist Party and the Campaign for a New Workers Party, as well as numerous individuals. The anger of the community activists at this meeting is an early sign that people will fight the cuts; we must ensure that we have an organisation in place to carry this fight forward.

At another recent meeting in Bracknell organised by the Socialist Party we saw more evidence of the rising tide of anger. Although fairly small in numbers it included a prominent local Liberal Democrat who was spitting blood at his Party going into coalition with the Tories and promised to support our campaign against the cuts. This Liberal Democrat asked “where are the socialists in the Labour Party”. We explained that most of them are now outside the Labour Party, fighting to build a fighting socialist alternative. There were also two workers at this meeting keen to find out how they could help to fight the cuts. One of them remembered us from the Anti Poll Tax struggles of the past. The policies of the Government have spurred them to be once again involved in struggle. I think we will see many more workers galvanised into action as the full horror of the Tory/Lib.Dem attacks on our Welfare State begin to unfold.

At the weekend I (Terry) attended the Annual Conference of the National Shop Stewards Network in London, this conference comes at an opportune time as the fight back against the Coalition Government is beginning. Speakers from Greece, Spain and Ireland gave reports of the massive movements of workers taking place around the world. The comrade from Ireland painted a picture of the future facing British workers if we do not fight. With a right wing Government slashing public sector jobs and welfare with the tacit agreement of the trade union bosses, we must beware in the UK the potential treachery of our trade union tops. The speakers from Greece and Spain reported on the strikes and demonstrations in their countries which are more advanced than in the UK at present. Calls for international solidarity were made by these comrades.

Today it was announced that 600,000 Public Sector jobs would go over the next 5 years and that unemployment could rise by 1. 5million over this period. In the Guardian of 29/6/10 Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winner, declares, “We are now in the early stages of a third depression…The cost – to the world economy and the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs – will be immense”. He also likened it to the long depression of the 1870′s that dragged on more than a decade, more severe than the Great Depression.

In the UK the Coalition Government are rushing into punitive attacks on the working class, slashing welfare, butchering housing subsidies for the low paid, increasing VAT from 17.5% to 20% hitting the poorest in our community at the same time giving the greedy bankers an easy ride. Not only are they threatening the feeble recovery of the economy but they are quite prepared to return the working class to Dickensian conditions, all this with the support of the treacherous Liberal Democrats.

In Bracknell as elsewhere in the UK, the work to build resistance to the cuts is a crucial necessity, it is no longer a theoretical consideration; we have no choice. As someone said the other day if we do not resist they will run all over us. We can build a movement of resistance similar to the great anti-poll tax campaign of the past, except that this time the fight will be many faceted, fought out on the picket lines and in the communities, involving many people new to politics. If we can build a fighting campaign in Bracknell, a Tory dominated Town, then such campaigns can be build in every corner of the country.

Val and Terry Pearce, Members UNITE the Trade Union, Bracknell Branch.

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