On 4 June 2011 almost 150 people attended the People’s Assembly Against the Cuts in the grand setting of the Black E hall in the centre of Liverpool. The Assembly was supported by a wide range of unions and campaigns from across the area.
The Assembly was called and organised by Liverpool Trades Union Council as part of its long running campaign to oppose all cuts in jobs and services, whether implemented directly by the Con Dem government or via the Labour dominated City council. It was a lively day with plenty of time for discussion.
In a session devoted to Defending Our Services, Babs Hennessey from Liverpool City Unison, Martin Kelsey from the Department of Works and Pensions section of the civil service union, the PCS and Martin Ralph from the Liverpool University branch of the college lecturers’ union, UCU, all explained the devastating impact that the cuts were having. Jobs are being slashed across the board. Services, including those for the most vulnerable sectors of society, are being bulldozed and education is being cut back and closed off to countless working class students.
In the afternoon attention switched to Defending the NHS and Greg Dropkin from Keep Our NHS Public, Larry Bowles from Unite the Union and Barbara Cookson from Unison – both on the Royal and Broadgreen hospitals joint staff side shop stewards’ committee – outlined the way in which Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes, creeping privatization and “efficiency savings” were bleeding the NHS of meaningful resources and at the same time creating an unregulated sector in health care that makes enormous profits out of people’s illnesses.
A final session on the theme of Defending Our Communities, was addressed by Celia Watson from the Merseyside Network Against Cuts and Fees, John Warburton the Co-ordinator of the Runcorn Unemployed Community Workers’ Centre, Lisa Dempster, a mother campaigning to keep open the local government funded nursery in Dovecot and Razak Mossa from chair of Liverpool’s Arabic Centre.
The mood of defiance that these speakers injected into the conference was eloquently summed up by Lisa Dempster. When City Council leader Joe Anderson told her he had to balance his books with a £91 million cuts package she told Mr Anderson, “Are you going to explain to me how I tell my three year old daughter that she cannot go to a nursery she loves and be looked after by nursery workers who care for her because of your support for cuts? That’s my problem Mr Anderson, not balancing your books. That is the real world and the real impact your cuts will have.”
All the speakers on the day stressed the need to build resistance from the grass roots and co-ordinate it by building support for the public sector strike action on 30 June and for the demonstration to defend the NHS on 5 July between 12 noon and 2pm outside the Royal Hospital. Alongside these, and other action, speakers argued throughout of the need to recognise that “we are all in this together”, but not in the way the Tories mean it. We mean we are all in this fight together and will support each and every campaign and strike against each and every cut. We won’t let them divide us.
In the discussions on the day these themes were taken up by many of the participants. They were echoed by Razak Mossa who pointed out that while supporting the uprisings against dictators across the Arab world the Liverpool Arabic community was also fighting cuts to the funding of its services here taking its place as part of the united Liverpool working class. Razak added, “How can we support the risings in the Arab world against not just dictatorship but also against terrible services and unemployment and not support that fight here in the UK?”
Daren Ireland, President of Liverpool TUC, closed the day by moving a statement from the Officers’ of Liverpool Trades Union Council outlining a programme of action, from now until the autumn, action that will include a mass lobby of the Labour Party conference here in Liverpool and a mass demonstration against the government when the Tories’ gather for their conference in October in Manchester.
Daren explained, “Liverpool Trades Union Council has been at the forefront of the campaign against cuts not just in this city but across the country. Today’s conference shows the support we have for that fight across the unions and across communities – from the Arab Revolution to the Royal and Broadgreen hospitals, from the nursery at Dovecot to the Government’s Call Centres that are under attack, and from City Council workforce through to students and lecturers whose courses face the chop. In the months ahead we ask all of those committed to defending our services, jobs, NHS and communities to join us in our campaign.”
Statement from the Liverpool People’s Assembly:
Liverpool TUC thanks everyone for attending today’s event. Its purpose was simple – to bring together as many unions, community campaigns and activists as possible to unify the struggles against the cuts that are taking place in our city.
Liverpool Trades Union Council is in favour of maximum unity between all workers – public and private, unemployed and employed, black and ethnic minorities and white workers, communities and unions – against all cuts to our public service no matter who implements them. Our next steps must be:
- Full support the campaigns to keep Liverpool’s Nurseries open and to unite behind these campaigns to force the council to stop its cuts to these services.
- Full support to the campaign by the Shorefields school teachers, parents, students and community to stop the attempt by the school head and governors to turn the school into a private academy under the control of the University of Chester.
- Full support to the public sector strike on 30 June and encouragement to the unions involved to hold a united rally on the day, to support the Banner Theatre anti-cuts play to be performed on the day and to support any follow up actions that any of the unions agree to hold.
- Full support to the proposed demonstration and lobby of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool this year and to the fringe meeting called by the Merseyside Association of Trades Union Councils.
- Full support for the demonstration at the Tory Party conference in Manchester this year called by the North West Trades Union Council and led by the Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils.
- Full support to every community, union and campaign against any cuts imposed by the Council or the Government.
To carry these objectives forward Liverpool Trades Union Council invites all campaigns and community organisations present today to attend its meetings over the next months to participate in our anti-cuts work and to discuss with us how best to take forward and build a broad trade union and community campaign against the cuts. To all trade unionists present we ask that you get your branches to affiliate to and actively participate in the meetings of Liverpool TUC.
To assess the progress of this work we propose holding a recall People’s Assembly in late October.
Agreed by the Liverpool People’s Assembly Saturday 4 June 2011
Supporters and sponsors of the Liverpool People’s Assembly 4 June 2011 include
Liverpool Trades Union Council
Wirral Trades Union Council
Sefton Trades Union Council
Merseyside Association of Trades Union Councils
Unite Merseyside Community Branch
Unite Plasterers Branch
Unite North West Construction Branch 6/542
UCU Liverpool University
RMT Liverpool No.5
PCS DWP Liverpool Branch
Unite Liverpool 0538 Branch
Unite Calderstones School Branch
The Royal and Broadgreen Joint Shop Stewards Committee
National Pensioners Convention Liverpool Branch
Keep Our NHS Public
Merseyside Women Against The Cuts
The National Shop Stewards Network
The Right to Work Campaign
The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition
Merseyside Stop the War
Merseyside Unite Against Fascism (LMHR)
Merseyside Communist Party
Merseyside Morning Star Supporters Group
The Socialist Party
The Socialist Workers Party
The International Socialist League
Please note sponsorship and support for the Liverpool People’s Assembly does not imply that any of the sponsors automatically agree with the statement proposed by the Liverpool Trades Union Council’s Officers