Swansea needs councillors who vote against cuts! No to austerity - vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Don’t waste the opportunity to send a clear ‘no more cuts’ message by voting for Ronnie Job, TUSC: the only no-cuts, socialist candidate in Swansea West in the 2015 General Election!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Swansea TUSC Next Steps

I want to say a big thank you to everybody that helped in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) campaign in the Uplands by-election. Thanks especially to all the people who aren't, members of my own party, the Socialist Party. TUSC is a coalition and we're beginning to build it as such in Swansea. Towards the end of our campaign the Left Unity group agreed, at their national conference, to work with TUSC in local campaigns; another step towards achieving our target of contesting 100 parliamentary seats and 1,000 councillors positions in May.

As we'd expected, in Uplands Labour was punished for the Labour Council's continued programme of cuts and outsourcing in Swansea and for the outgoing Labour councillor's failure to attend meetings to represent constituents. Peter May, the former Liberal Democrat, topped the poll as an independent.

May won with 600+ votes, an incredibly small winning vote for Uplands, which shows how low the turnout was in this by-election; well under 20% (I'll update details when I've had a chance to check the maths). The low turn out was inevitable given the lack of coverage given in the local press. We weren't able to overcome that given our limited opportunities for daylight canvassing. As you'd expect with a trade unionist coalition, most of our members are working and we didn't think it fair to knock people's doors after dark.

Of course we're a little disappointed with our final vote, 31. Nevertheless I think we've achieved a lot in this short campaign. The whole ward was leafleted at least once, some parts twice; hundreds of students making their way to the Uplands were also leafleted. We had 3 really enjoyable Saturday campaign stalls in Uplands Square. This was my personal highlight of the campaign as it was the best opportunity to meet and discuss with people. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the Uplands who hadn't heard of TUSC before who now know who we are and something about what we stand for. That will be a good starting point and  preparatory work already done for the general election in May. Swansea West is one of the seats where we're already preparing to stand as part of the biggest ever electoral challenge from the left of Labour.

People in Swansea will see much more of our eye-catching banner in the months and years to come. If you're fed up of Labour carrying through Con-Dem cuts but we couldn't persuade you to vote for us this time round then we will be having another go at persuading you come May.

I'll be taking a short break for writing for this blog for a little while but all the constituent parts of TUSC and its supporters will be continuing to organise against cuts and putting the case for socialism in our workplaces and communities. If anyone wants to know more about my own party, the Socialist Party, in Swansea, our website is http://www.swanseasocialistparty.org.uk/ and you can find our members at the Castle Square end of Oxford Street every Saturday.

TUSC has advanced a long way from its founding 4 years ago. It's not always reflected in votes but we'll reviewing our campaign in Uplands to see how can we reach and talk to more of you in May.

Ronnie Job

Thursday, 20 November 2014

What's socialism got to do with it?

Responses to some questions from Uplands residents on the Socialist Party and why I'm a socialist. Ronnie Job

Q: In a time where more and more people are asking for social and economic justice from their politicians and government, why do you think socialism is still one of the least followed political causes?
 A: I don’t agree that socialism doesn’t have much of a following. The crisis of the capitalist markets has shaken the belief of lots of people in the future for themselves and their children. This is the first generation in Britain that expects to have a lower standard of living than their parents. The subsequent questioning has been behind our successes in Ireland where we now have 3 TDs (MPs). Everywhere people are looking around for an alternative way of organising society. Even in the belly of the capitalist beast (the USA) socialism is on the march. The election of Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the States) Council member, Kshama Sawant in Seattle, with over 93,000 votes has sent shock waves across America. The biggest obstacle perhaps to people calling themselves socialist in Britain/Europe is the existence of so-called Labour or Socialist parties whose claims to be socialist while inflicting huge cuts and creating confusion. But where a clear and relevant socialist programme is put across it gets an echo and support, which although not necessarily translated into votes everywhere at this stage, gives socialists reason to be confident for the future.

Q: Socialists are renowned for having incredibly strong membership cores, much more so than more popular, main stream organisations. All of your members directly involved in real activism all the time, and no other party has that; Why do you think this is, and how do you do it? 
A: There are a couple of things that are relevant. Firstly there is the confidence in our ideas. Socialist Party members constantly debate and discuss and test our ideas in the trade unions, in elections, in our communities, refining them until we are confident in their correctness. Then we are not professional politicians after a career or playing at politics. We are just ordinary people who want to see a better life for our children, our workmates, communities and class. We have a principled position of being workers’ representatives on a workers’ wage. We think it’s important that workers’ representatives do not become divorced from the people they represent by taking home inflated salaries. Even at a local council level, I think it’s ridiculous that councillors get a basic allowance of £13,000+ (more than some of my union members earn for full-time jobs). If elected, I would take only genuine expenses, donating the rest to campaigns and the movement. There are no lucrative careers to be had in the Socialist Party so we don’t get flighty careerists.

Q: How do you believe the Socialist Party can take their grassroots activities to a national stage to compete with major political parties? What benefit does forming a coalition with the Trade Unions provide you and the Socialist Party locally?
A: The Socialist Party has played and will continue to play a pivotal part on a national and international stage but we are about much more than elections. In the past, when we were the Militant Tendency, we had 3 Labour MPs, we were a leading part in the battle of Liverpool Council with Thatcher’s government, where we translated socialism into the language of 5,000 new homes, community centres, nurseries and sports centres, resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs. Militant provided the political leadership of the anti-poll tax movement which brought down Thatcher.

We participate in the National Shop Stewards Network a rank and file movement of trade union activists. The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an alliance with the RMT trade union (which is officially affiliated to TUSC), other individual trade unionists, various left groups, anti-cuts campaigners and individuals who just want to fight back. TUSC is a coalition, united around a basic programme which all its members can agree on, based on trade union principles of socialism and solidarity. Decisions at a local and national scale are taken by consensus.

The Socialist Party takes part in TUSC because by coming together we have an opportunity to present the socialist, no-cuts alternative to as wide an audience as possible. In the council elections in England last year, TUSC provided the biggest ever left challenge to Labour. In May, we aim to stand 100 parliamentary candidates, including Swansea West and 1,000 council candidates in England. Not bad for an organisation that has only been in existence for 4 years!

Q: You’re really pushing the Anti-cuts message; to locals out there who don’t know Socialist policy, what do you hope to achieve on a local level aside from fighting cuts? What will a vote for you and TUSC do for the ward, the city and the TUSC cause?
We talk a lot about fighting cuts because cuts to services pose such a threat to the quality of ordinary people’s lives. Cuts to the NHS threaten the health of our communities, cuts to education threaten our children’s futures and if we don’t take a stand now then, in a few years’ time council services, as we know them, will cease to exist.

But you’re right, there is much more to a socialist programme than saying we’re against cuts. The Socialist Party wants to see ordinary people freed from spending all their time struggling to make ends meet, which is why we have a programme of demands including raising the minimum wage, reducing the working week and taking the giant companies that dominate our lives into democratic, public ownership – that would include the power and energy companies and utilities and the banks.

Standing in one council election in Swansea might seem a far cry from these ambitious aims bit we are part of a far wider movement and we’re putting down a marker for the future. The Labour Party has given up all rights to be considered a workers’ party with their slavish copying of Tory policies. Their collapse in Scotland is a taste of what’s to come elsewhere in future. Workers desperately need a new mass party of their own; TUSC offers an opportunity to build such a party. Every success, even every vote for TUSC is a step along that road.

Locally, a TUSC councillor would be demanding investment in housing – renovation and building of quality council housing. We would put the case for bringing the services that the Liberals and Labour have both outsourced back in house and planning them for the needs of the local community not to make profit from parasitic private vultures. We would argue for the participation of local people and council workers in improving and expanding services for all our benefit.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Sequel: Unsustainable Cuts II. Swansea's Labour Council comes back for more!

Today I received an e-mail from the Council. It invited me to take part in helping Swansea's Labour councillors decide whose jobs and services to axe next.

Anybody who hoped that after Labour’s cabinet coup there would be an end to doublespeak about improving services through cuts will be disappointed because we are being invited to,
“have your say about the council's plans to create smarter, leaner and more efficient services in the years ahead”
The Council presumably had my e-mail address because I responded online to their ‘Sustainable Swansea’ consultation last year, demanding that the Labour Council refuse to implement Con-Dem cuts. Ignoring what I wrote, the e-mail thanked me for helping to slash millions of pounds from services in Swansea:
“With your help last year we were able to identify millions of pounds of savings and begin to change so that our services can be sustainable in the years ahead.”
If Labour councillors are going to vote through destructive cuts to services then they shouldn’t try to make the rest of us collaborators in their betrayal. You will never get my help in making cuts to jobs and services. TUSC supporters will fight every cut.
Those cuts were so successful in making services sustainable that they’ve come back for much, much more! A throwaway comment at the end of the e-mail informs us how much Labour councillors intend to slash from services,
“The challenge is even greater than last year because the savings target has risen from £45m to at least £70m in the next few years.”
That’s not a challenge; that a disaster! It’s a disaster that spells destruction for council services and council workers and devastation for the local economy.
If you’ve had enough of being made to pay for a crisis that we didn’t cause, while the rich get richer then..
Vote Ronnie Job, TUSC Against Cuts, today in Uplands Ward today (November 20) and..
Join with us in building the Trades Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) as the socialist, no-cuts alternative for the general election and beyond.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Response to Uplands resident on issues of student integration, environmental issues and multiple-occupancy housing

An Uplands resident asked a number of questions on issues of recycling, integrating students into the local community and multiple-occupancy housing, all issues relevant to large numbers of people in Uplands. They were good questions which forced me to think hard about how practically, a socialist councillor would serve their community. I spent some time composing a response and I've decided to publish it here. This is not a fully rounded socialist programme but an attempt to answer some specific issues from a concerned resident. Comments and even (constructive) criticism would be welcomed.
Ronnie Job

I think all the questions you have posed have to be considered against the background of the huge cuts to jobs and services that the Labour Council has been making. You can’t cut £26 million from services in a single year and not see a reduction in quality in local services. That £26 million taken away from providing services to our community this year is only the first part of a 3-year programme of cuts, which was estimated at £45 million when Labour’s cuts budget was passed in February, had risen to £70 million by the time Rob Stewart replaced David Phillips in Labour’s cabinet coup and is now estimated at £70-100 million by Rob Stewart, in the coming years.
On top of this, large numbers of council workers have been demoralised not only by the job loses but by the council’s attacks on their incomes. Workers in some of the services that deal with the issues you have raised were badly affected, with some refuse workers standing to lose £ thousands in the implementation of new contracts that the Council demanded they sign or face the sack. This was bound to have a detrimental effect on services.

When leafleting at night, a number of TUSC supporters have said how they have slipped on leaves; the combination of leaves lying around and poor street lighting makes walking after dark very hazardous. No one can convince me that this isn’t a direct result of cuts leading to a poorer service.

I'm not in position to give expert opinion on the detail of some of your questions but I am confident that the necessary expertise and experience does exist in the council workforce and the local community. I think a good place to start formulating plans to address some of these issues would be bringing the local community, trade unions representing the Council workforce and representatives of the students together. This is something that I would see as being key to the role of an Uplands councillor.

A large part of the issues you've raised are to do with integrating students into the local community. The Council and residents groups could use Freshers’ week and induction at the University to begin to build links with the students union.

There will be environmental student societies and together with the students' union, they can play an important role in educating students about procedures for recycling. Many trade unions have green/environmental reps these days so it may be worth encouraging the campus trade unions to get involved as well.

I lived in the Uplands/Brynmill for a good part of the time I was studying in Swansea University in the late 1980s. I know that not all students make for the best neighbours but they also contribute to the community financially and socially. Many students fall in love with Swansea and decide to make it their home as I did. Part of the reason Uplands is so vibrant is because of the large numbers of young people. What is important then is making students feel part of the community they’re living in, perhaps through community events which students are encouraged to take part in. Any events that bring together students with local residents should be welcomed. I think the students union could also help by opening up events to local youth to break down any resentment about students have access to better facilities and events.
There are also plenty of issues where the two groups have shared interests in fighting cuts and which I would like to see students and local residents campaigning together on, including:
Public transport which is infrequent, over-crowded and expensive.
  • Personal security. Leafleting in the evenings has brought home just how dark the streets are in parts of the ward. It must be equally intimidating for local residents and students returning from the university at the end of the day to walk these streets.
  • Housing.
I lived in several multiple occupancy houses in Uplands/Brynmill while a student at Swansea University and for a number of years afterwards. I was living in a flat in Bernard Street when I met my wife, Claire (she was leading a rent strike against a rogue landlord, in this case the university, which had just tripled the cost of student nurses’ accommodation in Parc Beck). Some of the HMOs I stayed in were well-maintained, safe and clean with fair and accessible landlords; others were poorly looked-after and probably hazardous to health.

Not all multiple occupancy houses are student accommodation of course; one effect of the bedroom tax has been to force people out of Council accommodation into private sector renting in multiple occupancy housing. The Labour Party have said, eventually, that they’ll scrap the bedroom tax. It’s about time then that this Labour Council stops harassing people who can’t afford to pay the bedroom tax; let’s not drive any more council tenants out of their homes and into the multiple occupancy private rented sector.
The Council could play an important role in regulating and helping to ensure the safety and quality of multiple occupancy housing. Improving the quality of MHOs is beneficial not only for those living in them but also for the better landlords as they are not undermined by those who don’t spend on upkeep and for the community generally. Ultimately what is needed is safe, clean, environmentally friendly, affordable housing; a programme of council house building could reduce the pressure in the market for private renting.

As a socialist, I believe there is a wealth of talent in our community; the challenge is to organise the different elements of the community together in a democratic manner for the good of all. It's a challenge I'd relish if elected next Thursday.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Putting down a marker for TUSC

We've entered the last few days of campaigning in the Uplands council by-election. It's been both a frustrating and an enjoyable few weeks.

Frustrating because we haven't been able to discuss our ideas fully with everyone in the ward. The local media has pretty much ignored the election; one reporter phoned my agent, Alec, to ask when the election is taking place!

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) supporters stand in elections because we think that the working class need representatives who will fight for them. Even more importantly, we aim to show that there is an alternative to the cuts consensus of all the other parties.

TUSC supporters are, as our banner suggests, campaigners and ordinary people who are united by basic trade union principles and socialist ideas. We do not have the huge financial resources of some of our opponents, who promote one brand of austerity and cuts over another. The only way we have to overcome this disadvantage is by talking with and convincing people through discussion.

This is the enjoyable part of any election campaign. In particular, I've particularly enjoyed Saturdays leafleting and talking to people around Uplands Square. We've had a friendly and receptive response. We've discussed with council workers who've seen their incomes frozen or cut or their jobs under threat and with people who are seeing services that they, or other family members rely on, cut or threatened.

There's enormous anger that halfway through the Labour administration's term in charge of running the Council, the pace of cuts to jobs and services is accelerating. Just how many votes for TUSC that anger will be translated into on Thursday remains to be seen. People have been let down so many times that many won't even vote.

If we win though, then for the first time, Swansea will have a councillor willing to stand up and say "no" to austerity. Voters have an opportunity to achieve something historic rather than making cuts with "a heavy heart" (and a nice allowance cheque).

Either way though we have put down a marker for the future. TUSC plans to stand 1000 candidates in the English council elections in May and 100 candidates in parliamentary seats in the general election. Uplands voters will have another chance to vote TUSC in May because Swansea West is one of those 100 seats we aim to stand in.

And where do TUSC supporters go between elections? We continue arguing the case for socialism and fighting cuts in our workplaces, unions and communities. Members of my union, UNISON, have just provided a mandate to ballot for strike action over pay in Welsh colleges because we've been offered no cost of living increase.

We're the activists in your trade union branch. We're the people highlighting low-paying employers and those using zero-hours contracts. We're the people protesting at attempts to close down services. If you're  fighting cuts then we're the people alongside you.

If you want to be part of building a socialist alternative, give us a vote on Thursday - vote Ronnie Job, TUSC Against Cuts - then join with us in building TUSC as a real voice for trade unionists, workers and all those opposed to cuts.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

No to cuts to school playing fields!

Yesterday my son came home from school  with the news that I've been fearing since the Council budget at the start of the year - our Labour council plans to take away a large part of his school's playing fields.

Plans to make money from selling off/developing several schools' playing fields were outlined in the papers sent out for the budget-setting meeting. But Labour councillors going in to vote for cuts obviously hadn't studied the 200+ pages of papers because several I challenged on this issue denied there were any plans to take away school playing fields. So either they were ignorant of the cuts they later voted for or they were being dishonest. I think councillors paid to put up their hands for £45 million of cuts (a figure that's risen substantially in the months since) have a duty to know what they're voting for!

Having safe areas in schools for our children to play and take part in sports contribute significantly to their health and well-being. The Council will not get away with this without a fight. I will be writing to the school governors offering my support as a parent, to their resistance to the Council's plans.

School governors in the affected schools, school students and their families and education trade unions need to link up with the local community to fight for the health, well-being and safety of our children and the local environment.

I'm standing for election in the Uplands by-election on Thursday as a TUSC Against Cuts candidate to offer an alternative to the cuts agenda which puts saving money above even our children's health and well-being.

Friday, 14 November 2014

For fighting trade unions

I've just voted yes in my union's political fund ballot. It's important trade unionists have a voice of their own, speaking for them in politics.

Unfortunately the party that trade unions set up to represent themselves, the Labour Party, has given up all rights to be considered the workers' party by tying themselves in to Con-Dem cuts and refusing to support workers' struggles to defend their jobs and conditions.

That's why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition supporters argue for the democratisation of the political funds so that union members can vote for their unions to back candidates who defend their interests and who support union policies!

The by-election in Swansea illustrates the point. My union, UNISON, has given around £6 million to Labour since 2010 when the Con-Dems were elected. In that time we've got precious little for our money. Labour's pledged to continue Con-Dem cuts, said they'll be tougher on those needing benefits to get by and refused to back nationalisation of the railways and royal mail (despite overwhelming conference votes at party conference) and failed to support any workers' struggles.

In Swansea we have a Labour council which isn't a Living Wage employer, has employed workers on zero hours contracts and outsourced services to firms who use even worse employment practices. Contracts have been awarded to companies who've been named as blacklist users and, of course, they're passing on Con-Dem cuts. Council Leader Rob Stewart is predicting £70-100 million to be cut from jobs and services, of which the £26 million cut this year is only the start. Cuts at this level mean the end of council services as we know them.

TUSC was set up by the RMT union, with the late Bob Crow being an enthusiastic supporter. It was set up to provide trade unionists with a voice in politics, the voice that Labour is failing to provide.

Vote to retain the political fund where your union has one; argue for setting one up if they don't.
If you're in an affiliated union, support calls for a break with Labour and for funds  to be used to support candidates who back members' struggles and support union policies on pay, jobs, cuts, etc.
If you're in UNISON you can back that demand up by transferring from the affiliated to the general political fund to stop funding Labour.

Trade unionists in Uplands can vote for a socialist and trade unionist committed to voting against and campaigning against all cuts next Thursday in the Council by-election.

Vote Ronnie Job, TUSC Against Cuts.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Swansea's Labour Council is not a Living Wage Employer!

Socialism 2014 Rally Platform Speakers
A fighting socialist and trade unionists platform includes Ian Hodson, Bakers' Union President (on right) at Socialism 2014

And neither are 21 out of 22 local authorities in Wales!

An aspiring Labour politician has sent me a link to the GMB website in an attempt to prove that City and County of Swansea is a Living Wage employer.

The story on the site, which is over a year old, uncritically repeats claims by the then Labour leader, David Phillips, that Swansea's Labour councillors had agreed to pay the Living Wage. What it fails to mention is that, by the time that most of the lowest paid workers received it, the level the Council were paying was already out-of-date - 20p less an hour than the Living Wage Foundation said workers needed to get by on at the time.

Councillor Phillips also failed to mention that the payment of a "living wage" (at less than the Living Wage rate) was partially paid for by cuts to other payments to council workers and charging them for the privilege of going to work, through car parking charges. These cuts left some workers facing a 10% drop in wages and when some protested they were told to "sign (new contracts) or be sacked"!

It gets worse though. The Council made it crystal clear that this was a one-off and that there was no commitment to increase council workers' pay in line with the Living Wage. This was reinforced when then council cabinet financial spokesman, now Council Leader, Rob Stewart, moved this year's cuts budget. In the papers accompanying the budget, it states plainly that the Council is not committed to becoming a Living Wage employer and has not budgeted for the increase in the Living Wage that has just taken place.

I decided to double-check just in case, with uncharacteristic modesty, Labour councillors had decided to increase the wages of their poorest workers without making a song and dance about it. On the Living Wage Foundation website you can get lists of Living Wage employers in each region. There are 33 in Wales and only one of them is a local authority. It isn't City and County of Swansea! Labour leads half the local authorities in Wales and yet 21 out of 22 are paying poverty wages! No wonder nearly a quarter of workers in Wales earn less than the Living Wage.

Was the GMB's enthusiasm to promote Labour councillors' unsubstantiated claims to be a Living Wage employer a result of their long outdated link with Labour?

Even the Living Wage, although it would represent an increase for tens of thousands of Welsh workers, isn't enough. The GMB at this year's TUC seconded the motion moved by the Bakers' Union, BFAWU, that the TUC demand the minimum wage be raised to £10 an hour.

This weekend, at the Socialist Party's annual education event, I heard Ian Hodson, President of the Bakers' Union explain why. Anything less than £10 leaves low paid workers needing their wages to be topped up by means-tested benefits in order to get by. This is state subsidising of employers who pay poverty wages.

£10 an hour was overwhelmingly carried at the TUC but TUSC candidates will be the only ones demanding immediate implementation of TUC policy on pay now and at the general election. After all, if the minimum wage had kept pace with bosses' sky-rocketing pay, the minimum wage would be worth £19/hour now. We call on all trade unionists to support us in demanding £10 now, with no exceptions on age or other grounds. If you're in an affiliated union ask why your union's finances go to support a Labour Party whose policy is for £8 an hour (15p more than the current Living Wage) in 5/6 years' time and not TUC policy.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Labour has given up all rights to be considered the workers' party

TUSC logo Fight Cuts Back Strikes Vote TUSC

Leaflets for Swansea West Labour MP, Geraint Davies, have been dropping through doors this week in the start of what clearly will be a long campaign for the General Election. Perhaps Labour in Swansea West have started early because they fear the challenge from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)?

On the back of the leaflet is the headline "Swansea needs a fairer future not more Zero Hours contracts says Geraint Davies MP"

We completely agree Geraint. We therefore invite you to condemn your Labour colleagues running the Council for their use of zero hours contracts and for outsourcing council services to companies and other organisations that do.

Every promise Labour makes about what they will do in Government  - and there's precious few of them (they have only said they'll regulate, not scrap zero hours contracts by the way) - is undermined by the actions of Labour councils.

Labour-led councils have cut, outsourced and axed council services as much as those led by other parties and Welsh Labour has been no better than their colleagues in England. The way they've treated their workforces is reprehensible.

On the same day that I got my leaflet from Geraint promising a rosy Welsh Labour future, Merthyr's Labour Council was threatening to dismiss it's entire workforce and re-employ them in worse conditions. It's a repeat of the threat made by Swansea's Labour Council to its own workers protesting against cuts in income: "sign or be sacked"!

Sorry Geraint but actions like these mean that Labour has given up all rights to be considered the workers' party. That's why TUSC supporters in Swansea West plan on being part of the biggest ever left challenge to Labour when we stand 100 candidates in the General Election.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Building a socialist no-cuts alternative

TUSC graphic Where will your vote go
I see Nigel Farage is charging £25/head for people to meet and talk with him next month in Port Talbot. You couldn't pay me enough to talk with that privileged, Thatcherite phoney. UKIP pose as anti-establishment but like ex stock broker, Farage, it's all an act. He's no man of the people, no matter how many pints or bacon butties he poses with for the cameras.

For £25 this weekend it's possible to meet and discuss with genuine, working class, anti-cuts fighters who're overcoming all odds to defeat the establishment, at the Socialist Party's annual education event, Socialism. 

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate, Ronnie Job, and fellow  TUSC supporters have been out campaigning on a Saturday around Uplands Shops but this weekend we'll be attending Socialism 2014.

There we'll get to hear and learn from co-thinkers around the world, like Kshama Sawant, who's election as a council member in Seattle with well over 90,000 votes, was pivotal in winning a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle.

Other socialist elected representatives speaking will include Ruth Coppinger TD (MP) who, following the recent election of Paul Murphy, is now one of three TDs in Dublin who are members of the Socialist Party in Ireland.

Around the world mainstream parties are disintegrating. People are crying out for an alternative and where socialists have been able to challenge with a clear anti-cuts platform they've had some spectacular successes.

That is what we are building towards with TUSC. There are already a handful of TUSC councillors, committed to voting and fighting all cuts. To date, they're disillusioned former Labour Party members unwilling to vote for Labour cuts and driven out of their own party. In May of next year, TUSC aims to stand a 1,000 council candidates in England (there are no elections in Wales) and contest 100 MPs positions.

The Uplands by-election is a small part in building TUSC as a real socialist alternative, based on basic trade union principles of struggle, solidarity and socialism. If you live in Uplands, vote Ronnie Job, TUSC Against Cuts on November 20. Wherever you live, consider how you could help to ensure that there is socialist, no-cuts, TUSC candidate to vote for in the General Election in May.

Uplands shoppers - we'll see you again on the 15th for the final weekend of campaigning before the by-election.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Swansea's Labour Council pays poverty wages

£10 Now Minimum Wage logo
The Living Wage was increased today to £7.85. The Living Wage Foundation, the body that sets the level of the Living Wage, says that they have now accredited over 1,000 Living Wage employers.. Swansea's Labour Council isn't one of them!

While the Council seems to be very generous in paying councillors - the basic wage is £13,000+, over £1,000 month for what for many is only a top-up for their day job - they're not so generous with their workers.

Last year, the Council claimed to have paid the 'Living Wage' but at a level which was already out of date (£7.45 when it has already been increased to £7.65). And, as the papers for the council meeting that set this year's 'cuts' budget make clear, councillors saw it as a one-off and definitely were not committing to future increases in line with a rising Living Wage. The increase for some workers was also offset against huge cuts in incomes for others as the Council threatened workers to "sign (new contracts) or be sacked".

The Living Wage Foundation sets the Living Wage at the level they say workers need to get by. By paying less, Swansea's Labour Council is paying poverty wages.

The Labour Party have made a big fuss over Ed Miliband's pledge to raise the Minimum Wage to £8/hour.. in 2020! In 5/6 years' time workers can look forward to earning 15p more an hour than what the Living Wage Foundation says you need today.

In fact, even the Living Wage is only enough to get by on when topped up with benefits - a case of the state subsidising low paying employers. That's why the Bakers' Union, BFAWU, moved the motion, overwhelmingly carried, at this year's TUC, to demand the Minimum Wage be raised to £10/hour. TUSC campaigns for TUC policy; if you're in an affiliated union, ask why you're union is funding the Labour Party when they promise nowhere near it.

Of course, it's no good having even a good hourly rate if you're not sure to get enough hours' work in the week to put food on the table.. Like the workers Swansea's Labour Council employs on zero hours contracts.

The Labour Party promises to regulate zero hours contracts but that's not good enough. Zero hours contracts have played a big part in the increase in poverty for many workers and they should be scrapped.

Labour has been in power in Swansea for 2 and a half years and still the Council pays workers less than the Living Wage and uses zero hours contracts.

They're also outsourcing services and jobs to low-paying employers who use zero hours contracts and other forms of casualisation, to drive down wages.

The Labour Party won't support TUC policy to end poverty wages or commit to scrapping zero hours contracts. Isn't time Labour stopped posing as a workers' party and taking votes off genuine workers' representatives?

If you're a low-paid worker living in the Uplands then vote, Ronnie Job, TUSC Against Cuts on November 20. Wherever you live, help us build the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) as the no-cuts alternative for the General Election and beyond.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The choice for Uplands voters: vote for cuts or vote TUSC Against Cuts

TUSC Graphic Where will your vote go
The graphic for the next leaflet the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will be using in our campaign to get Ronnie Job elected as Councillor in the Uplands by-election on November 20, sums up why TUSC is standing.

The choice is simple, you can vote for cuts or you can vote TUSC Against Cuts, the only way to get a councillor committed to voting against and fighting all cuts to jobs and services.

We all know the Tories are vicious. They've forced the very poorest into dependence on food banks and pay day loans. We've all suffered to protect profits of their friends.

The Liberals think they're progressive but in government, they allowed the Tories to attack us. The last Liberal administration in Swansea, outsourced and cut services.

The Liberals lost control of the Council because of their enthusiasm for making Con-Dem cuts but anybody expecting a change of direction from Labour will have been disappointed.

We've heard the claim more than once in this campaign, "our cuts are better than their cuts". But we're still waiting for a convincing explanation of why it's better Labour councillors get paid to cut services for the rest of us.

Plaid Cymru helped the previous Liberal-led administration into power in Swansea and they've offered to help Labour in neighbouring Carmarthenshire to identify cuts to jobs and services. Last years' Welsh Government Budget was passed with support from Plaid Cymru, in alliance with the Lib Dems. We can't accept that Welsh cuts are in any way better than English cuts.

People may be tempted to see the Green Party as an alternative but when given a chance, Greens have voted for cuts as well. In Brighton, the Green-led council has cut £60 million from jobs, services and council workers' wages, while the leader of the council has had a pay rise!

The central commitment that every TUSC candidate makes is to vote against all cuts. We are trade unionists and campaigners with basic trade union principles of socialism and solidarity who fight cuts daily in our workplaces and communities.

So, if you're opposed to council cuts and live in the Uplands, there is only one choice on November 20:

Vote Ronnie Job, TUSC Against Cuts

Friday, 31 October 2014

Capitalism is all trick and no treats for the working class

A quick scan of the newspapers or TV this Halloween reveals plenty of evidence for the horrors of capitalism, locally and further afield.
  • More than 5 million workers in the UK earn less than the Living Wage. In Wales, it was reported earlier this year that there are just 18 Living Wage accredited employers and more than 1 in 5 workers earn less than the Living Wage. Scandalously that includes council workers in Labour authorities, including Swansea.
  • For whole groups of workers, the minimum wage, less than what is needed to get by on, has become the norm. Nearly one quarter of minimum wage workers have been paid at that level for 5 years.
  • Bosses are getting more inventive in getting us to work for less and less. Casualisation, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment. These are all methods used to get more profit out of us. If you were expecting better from a Labour Council then think again. Our Council uses zero-hours contracts and outsources services to companies who use tricks like paying care workers only for 15 minute visits and not the travel time in between, meaning care workers effectively earn less than the legal minimum wage.
  • No wonder the numbers of children in families living in poverty has topped 4 million. A report by the Children's Society in August revealed that 23% of Welsh families are struggling with household debt.
  • The number of people having to rely on food banks is growing and the range of people having to use them has also increased, including working families who's wages don't cover the cost of living. A food bank was set up in one of Swansea's universities last year for students who can't afford to feed themselves. Hardly surprising with successive Labour and Con-Dem governments first introducing then raising fees on top of the rising cost of living.
  • With families struggling to afford even the basics of life, luxuries are becoming a distant memory for many. Living in Swansea, we're fortunate to have some of the most beautiful coastline on our doorstep but did you know that Barnardos has reported that as many as 1 in 5 families can't afford a day out at the seaside and fish and chips?
It hasn't been bad news for everybody though; the richest have done very well out of austerity. The number of billionaires globally has doubled since the start of the economic crisis; austerity has been used as a cover to transfer wealth from the poorest to the richest. Just 85 people (about the capacity of the infamous Swansea bendy bus) together are worth as much as the poorest half of the world's population. Remember that when politicians tell you that "we're all in together" or that we have to accept cuts.
TUSC Graphic where will your vote goUnfortunately you will find no challenge to what one German economist has called 'zombie capitalism' from the zombie Labour party. So desperate is Ed Miliband to show he can manage capitalism that he's promised to keep within Con-Dem spending limits and won't commit to reversing Con-Dem cuts. Labour promises to be tougher on the unemployed and all those that rely on state benefits to supplement their incomes. And Labour plays the Tory/UKIP game of blaming immigrants and migrant workers instead of targeting the greedy bosses.
No wonder workers are turning away from Labour in disgust, leading to an emptying out of the party, which now contains the disillusioned who can't break lifelong loyalties and careerists aiming to make a living on the backs of the working class. When I was in the Labour Party, each ward in Swansea had a party branch, now branches cover multiple wards and are not capable of holding councillors to account.
The paper's are reporting Labour faces being wiped out in Scotland for their collusion with the Tories but that's just a taste of their future elsewhere. My wife, Claire, asked me what I wanted to wear to Swansea Socialist Party's Halloween Party. I said I'd go as the walking dead and asked her to get me a Labour rosette.
It was to provide a vibrant, 'no cuts', socialist alternative to the horrors of capitalism that the Trades Unionist and Socialist Coalition was founded. TUSC is what it says on our banner. We are workers and campaigners, united by a commitment to basic trade union principles of solidarity and socialism. We've come together because we want to challenge the acceptance by all the other parties that ordinary people must be made to pay for the crisis of capitalism. We say we won't pay for a crisis not of our making and so we commit to fighting and voting, against every cut to jobs, pay or services.
Next year we aim to stand 1,000 council candidates in England (there's no council elections in Wales) and 100 candidates for MPs positions in the General Election. I'm the prospective TUSC Against Cuts candidate for Swansea West, one of four candidates who've already come forward in Wales. Can you help us reach our target of  contesting 7 seats in Wales?
Ronnie Job
Vote TUSC Against Cuts in Uplands Ward council by-election on November 20.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The need for a publicly owned integrated transport network

Travelling home tonight I'll face a dilemma: Do I more than double my travel time or nearly double my travel costs?

The problem is the bus company awarded one leg of the quickest route, by the Council, doesn't accept the day travel ticket I've just bought with another company for the journey in.

The Welsh Labour Government and Welsh Labour councils all pay lip service to the idea of an integrated transport policy but do precious little about it. They've also made cuts in public transport, reducing subsidies for bus operators.

A publicly owned, integrated transport network could be planned to meet the needs of users, providing cheap, safe and clean travel. It could begin to reduce congestion on our roads and could be a big step forward in reducing the environmental impact of transport.

But the Labour Party will not even commit to re-nationalising the rail network, despite an overwhelming vote for this at their own national conference. The allocation of transport contracts to the lowest bidder will put more and more people in situations like mine where public transport is an uneconomic long drudge.

TUSC: For an integrated publicly owned and planned public transport network.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

TUSC says council cuts are a threat to safety and security

Swansea Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) supporters out campaigning to get Ronnie Job elected as a TUSC Against Cuts councillor in the Uplands by-election last night were struck by just how dark it was. Yes, I know, the clocks go back every year but that's why we have street lighting to keep people safe.

It seems to be The Council's policy to turn off every other light, either that or cuts are affecting street light maintenance. TUSC supporters are in favour of saving energy as part of a plan to protect our local environment but I suspect these cuts are more to do with saving money and will come at the cost of increased accidents and injuries. Particularly when cut backs across the board at the Council seem to be leading to other hazards like wet leaves remaining on pavements.

There is also a very real threat to personal safety. Even students making their way home fro the University after the last lecture of the day will be walking in the dark thanks to street lighting cuts.

Don't take chances with peoples' safety and security. Cuts pose a danger to council workers and residents alike. Staff and resource council departments that keep us safe and free from injury properly. Oppose all council cuts and outsourcing.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Are Labour Councillors paid £1,000 a meeting to cut jobs and services?

The Post revealed last week that Swansea councillors are being paid over a £1000 a month for the privilege of representing their constituents and it has rightly left a lot of people angry.

Ronnie Job, Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the forthcoming Uplands by-election said,

"The lowest paid councillors are getting over £1,000 a month. That's £1,000 a council meeting (£2,000 a meeting for those with poorer attendance records). And in most cases, that's on top of their day jobs."

"Councillors are earning as much for a few hours' attendance, or non-attendance in some cases, at Council meetings, as some of the council workers whose jobs they vote to cut or outsource."

Cabinet members get around £600 a week, well over the average wage and the Council Leader a whopping £1,000 a week!

Socialists don't take positions, representing working class people, as a means to make money for themselves.

Ronnie pledges:

"If elected, I would take only genuine expenses, donating the rest of the councillor's wages to campaigners and trade unionists fighting cuts, like those being made by our overpaid Labour councillors."

Swansea: Cuts, Culture and Dylan Thomas' commitment to the socialist ideas that Labour's abandoned

As Swansea's celebration of the centenary of Dylan Thomas' birth continue there has been precious little mention of his socialist principles and campaigning.

Here's a link to an article by TUSC candidate for the Uplands by-election, Ronnie Job, written on occasion of the awarding of City of Culture to Hull over Swansea.

It includes suggestions for reading about Dylan Thomas' commitment to socialism and the socialist principles that Labour has abandoned, as demonstrated by Swansea's Labour councillors' commitment to carrying out Tory cuts.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Press release: Socialist Challenge in Llanelli at General Election

There will be a new left wing challenge to the established political parties in Llanelli at next year’s general election. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has selected Scott Jones, a young trade unionist living in the Dafen area to fight the Llanelli seat.
TUSC, as the name suggests is a coalition of people who stand for socialist and trade union principles and values. They all have in common a belief that Labour is no longer a party of the working class and the time is now ripe for a new party that unashamedly fights for the rights, welfare and living standards of working people. In practice, that means fighting the cuts and austerity agenda of the Government and also opposing cuts implemented by local authorities whatever party is carrying them out.
TUSC supports the TUC policy to increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour and this is one of their main priorities.
TUSC is already supported by the Rail workers union (RMT) formerly led by the late Bob Crow who was also leader of TUSC.

Scott Jones is 26 years old and is a local branch secretary of the shop workers union USDAW. Mr Jones said “At a time when we are facing some of the biggest attacks on our living standards in history, the working class needs somebody to fight for them. The millionaires have their political parties. It’s time we had one of our own.”

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Welsh Labour overseeing the end of council services as we know them

From this week's Socialist Paper: Welsh Labour presiding over the end of council services as we know them and why it was important that TUSC stands in the Uplands by-election.


TUSC Campaign for Uplands Ward up and running

Spent a pleasant morning (despite the weather) leafleting and talking to people around the Uplands Market about why I'm standing for the Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition in the Uplands by-election on November 20.

We met a lot of council workers furious that a Labour council is cutting jobs and outsourcing services, that it employs workers on less than the Living Wage and makes use of zero hours contracts. Other Uplands residents told us how they fear for the future of services in Swansea as Labour continues to pass on Con-Dem cuts - they intend to take £26 million out of jobs and services this year and £70 million over 3 years.

Image of first TUSC leaflet for UplandsNot everybody was pleased to see us though. One Labour councillor went past shouting about how if he and his Labour colleagues didn't make cuts then they'd be made by Jack Straw (Chief Executive of the Council - not the former Labour Government Minister). That would be the same Jack Straw that a number of Labour councillors thanked in the budget-setting meeting earlier this year, for helping them to put together their budget of cuts to jobs and services then?

In any case as I wrote yesterday, I can't see how it's better to have your services cut or your job axed by a so-called 'left' Labour councillor than by council officers. We want councillors who will vote against all cuts and who will instruct officers to protect, not cut, jobs and services.

It was great to get the campaign up and running, our leaflets went down well and our new TUSC banner looked fantastic. We aim to show over the next 4 weeks that it is possible to have an alternative - representatives prepared to vote against and fight all cuts. If you've had enough of Labour councillors being paid to make Tory cuts then help us build TUSC as that alternative.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Labour Council Cuts: Better for whom?

One of the justifications Labour councillors often use when voting through cuts is "it's better that we make cuts than somebody else does". This was one of the repeated phrases at the Council's budget-setting meeting when not one councillor was prepared to speak out, let alone vote, against £26 million of cuts to jobs and services just in this year.

It's something I've never got! How can it be better to know that your job is being axed or outsourced by a Labour council? How can it be better to know that a service you rely on is under threat of being axed by Labour councillors?

If you add in 3 little words: "get paid to" it makes more sense. As in "better we GET PAID TO make cuts than somebody else does". The only people for whom Labour cuts are better than Tory, Lib-Dem, UKIP or any other political shade of cuts, are the Labour councillors getting paid to make them, as far as I can see.

The Evening Post has been publishing this week just how much they are being paid: over £13,000 for a councillor, £31,000+ for a cabinet member, £52,000 for the Council Leader. The basic councillor's wage is more than some members of my union branch employed by the Council, in some cases on zero-hours contracts or for less than the Living Wage. And for many councillors this is an additional income on top of their 'day jobs'!

As a Socialist Party representative, standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, I pledge to take only audited expenses - I don't expect to be paid for being a councillor.

If elected, like all TUSC representatives, I will vote, speak out against and campaign against all cuts to jobs and services.

TUSC demands the Council immediately stop exploiting workers through zero-hours contracts, including contracting services to firms that do.

TUSC calls on the Council to stop stalling and immediately implement the Living Wage as the first step towards TUC policy of £10/hour.

Ronnie Job

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Vote yes and co-ordinate action to end the pay freeze

I've just voted 'yes' in the consultation being undertaken by my union, UNISON and the other campus unions in further education in Wales.
The consultation will determine whether we are balloted for strike action in pursuit of our pay claim. The Welsh colleges have decided not to make a cost of living award this year.
Our unions estimate that in the last 6 years the value of our incomes have fallen by 18% in real terms. The fall in our wages is driving a number of our members into poverty. A decisive vote for action is needed to provide a mandate to our unions to organise the action that will be needed to halt the race to the bottom.
We also need to link the fight on our wages to a campaign to demand increased funding from the Welsh Government and to halt the cuts in education.
UNISON members in the NHS in Wales have just voted for strike action on pay and there is a growing movement of local government branches to overturn the suspension of the local authority strikes. We have different employers but we all face the same catastrophic fall in wages and living standards and all caused by the cuts of the Con-Dems.
We can't rely on Labour to protect us from Con-Dem cuts - Labour councils and the Welsh Government simply pass them on. So it's up to us to halt the race to the bottom on our wages and striking together provides our best chance of breaking the pay freeze.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition  is the political no cuts alternative that, unlike Labour, backs workers fighting to defend their wages, jobs and services. TUSC representatives also commit to voting against all cuts.
Ronnie Job

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Send a message to Swansea Council - vote for the no-cuts, socialist candidate in the Uplands by-election!

I'm Ronnie Job, intending to stand for the Trades Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the council by-election in Uplands Ward.
Who I am:
  • Education worker.
  • UNISON steward.
  • Secretary of Swansea Trades Council.
  • Member of the Socialist Party (and before that, Militant) for over 25 years.
Standing because I’m a trade unionist:
I’m standing because I’m a trade unionist and I’m fed up of a Labour council attacking its own workforce because councillors prefer to make Con-Dem cuts rather than fighting them:
The Labour Group has been in power in Swansea Council for 2 years but it:
  • Employs hundreds of workers on zero-hours contracts
  • Has still not implemented the Living Wage
  • Is cutting and outsourcing jobs
  • Has told members of my own union branch and other council workers, facing a loss of income, to accept new contracts and “sign or be sacked”.
Standing up for council jobs and services:
I’m standing because I value council services. I sat in the public gallery earlier this year as the Council passed a budget for £26 million of cuts to services this year. Not one Labour councillor voted against these cuts or the proposal to make £45 million cuts over 3 years. That figure has now risen to £70 million as the Labour Welsh Government has passed on even more Con-Dem cuts and still not one Labour councillor has had the courage to speak out or vote to protect their constituents’ jobs and services.
Labour councillors often make statements like “it’s better we make cuts than somebody else does”, as a justification for voting Tory cuts.
“Better for whom?” is what I want to know.
  • Is it better for the worker in social care on a zero hours contract and not getting paid for their travelling time, if it’s a Labour council imposes those conditions?
  • Is it better for users of adult day care services that it is Labour councillors who are threatening to sell off or axe them?
If a Labour council passes on Tory cuts then the only people I think it’s better for is Labour councillors. Do they really mean, “it’s better we GET PAID TO make cuts than somebody else does”?
The central commitment that every TUSC candidate makes is to vote against all cuts.
Who the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are:
The Trades Unionists and Socialist Coalition is exactly what it says on our banner. We are ordinary people - trades unionists, workers, users of council services who don’t believe we, our families and our communities should be made to pay for a crisis that was not of our making.
Socialism the alternative:
We’re socialists because if capitalism, this system of crisis based on profit, can’t afford decent council services provided by workers paid enough to be able to provide for their families in turn, then we can’t afford capitalism. Our vision of socialism is where the wealth and resources or our society are used for the needs of our community not the profits of a rich few.
Don’t waste an opportunity to send a message to Welsh Labour:
There are no planned council elections in Wales until at least 2017. This may well be the last chance before then that voters in Uplands have to vote for an alternative to the cuts-consensus of all established parties.
Don’t waste the opportunity to send a clear ‘no more cuts’ message by voting for the only no-cuts, socialist candidate in this by-election.