We’ve had a busy week in Southampton!
100 staff and others packed into Valentine Primary School hall for a National Education Union (NEU) meeting on 20 November.
Sue Atkins, Southampton Socialist Party
Liz Filer, the headteacher, explained how hard it is to continue to meet the needs of her children while resisting the pressure to cut teaching assistants and other staff, and much more to balance the books.
Many pledged their support in refusing to cut any further and demanding fully funded education.
At the meeting, the Labour council cabinet member for education also pledged his support, although his ‘support’ was advising the school on how to make cuts, and that, oh yes, he has written strongly worded letters to the government.
NEU backing has helped maintain confidence and morale. A NEU representative said that strike action will be supported.
This meeting gave a glimpse of how working-class communities will respond in defence of their services when a lead is given.
The following day there was a full-council meeting. Council unions Unite and Unison protested the proposed closure of Southampton’s last two remaining care homes outside.
In a very short time a petition of over 1,500 signatures triggered a debate in the council. But it was pitiful.
Labour rightly blamed the government for robbing the city of £136 million over the last seven years, but said they would cut services and jobs.
The council attempted to mollify anger with a ‘consultation’. But we’ve seen these consultations before. The council will still press ahead with closure unless sufficient pressure is exerted by trade-union action linking up with an organised campaign to save the care homes.
The Socialist Party also made a deputation to the council, to argue for a legal, no-cuts budget instead of the further £15 million cuts by 2020-21. We explained that by doing the Tories’ dirty work they are undermining the possibility of a Labour government being elected that could reinstate full funding to local councils.
The public gallery applauded, but the council predictably said that absolutely nothing can be done. But this is not the end. Trade unions and their allies will step up the campaign.
On 25 November the Socialist Party called a public meeting against the cuts. Mick Tosh, Southern regional secretary of the RMT transport union addressed the meeting and spoke about their members striking to keep guards on trains.
Local teachers, health workers, care-home campaigners and other trade unionists spoke in the meeting – a cross section of our communities. There was a seriousness to the discussion as we prepare for the big battles ahead, but optimism that win can beat the cuts and fight for a socialist alternative.