Bristol Politics, Green Politics, NHS, Protests, Railways, Trade Unions and Industrial Disputes, Uncategorized

The Green Heart of #Bristol’s #SocialMovements

I joined the Green Party back in October 2014 at the start of the ‘Green surge’. I’d became increasingly aware that they were the only party consistently talking about restructuring the economy in the interests of everyone to tackle not only climate change but also the spiralling inequality infecting our society.

Within a month I’d been co-opted into being the parties Trade Union Liaison Officer, and was busy organising support and ‘Solidari-Tea’ for the NHS strike that winter. Me and my colleagues in 13 different unions across the NHS were striking after the government refused to give us even the miserly 1% pay rise recommended by its own pay review board. After more than 6 years of a freeze on NHS pay, things are becoming increasingly tough for more and more health workers. Green comrades got up at the crack of dawn and came to join me and other staff on the picket lines bringing flasks of hot Soladari-Tea and coffee for everyone (very appreciated on a bitterly cold winters morning). The hot drinks and support helped contribute to the vibrant hopeful mood of the picket, and I knew I had found my political home.

In the little over a year I’ve been involved with the local party since then it has consistently put itself at the heart of movements for social justice across Bristol.

Anna on Workers Memorial Day

Green councillor Anna McMullan highlighting the plight of Bangladeshi Garment workers at the International Workers Memorial Day event in Bristol April 2015

We’ve brought Solidari-Tea to picket lines across the city. Joining the men and women of the FBU striking against unfair and unsafe pensions that would see 60 year old running into burning buildings, and the RMT fighting to protect jobs and services on the new Inter-City express trains. Most recently we’ve been out in force to support Junior Doctors fighting against unfair and unsafe contracts that could see them working more than 70 hours a week without unsocial pay enhancements for working on Saturdays or into the night.

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Junior Doctors and their supporters (including Green councillor Carla Denyer front and centre) picketing outside the BRI

We’ve sent support to workers at the sharpak Yate food processing factory fighting against the imposition of longer contracts, to teachers at the Winterborne academy fighting against unmanageable workloads and bullying management, to staff demanding their fair share from wage stealing bosses at Café Amore and much more.

Action for Rail

Greens campaigning for the Public Ownership of Rail at Temple Meads in Feburary 2015

We’ve joined the Bristol Trades Council in campaigns for the Living Wage, worked with Bristol Stop the War to build opposition to the bombing of Syria, and have been at the heart of the Bristol People’s Assembly and its resistance to cuts and austerity. We’ve taken to the streets to call for the public ownership of our railways with the Action for Rail group, and campaigned against the exploitative practices of rogue landlords and letting agents through ACORN the Community Union.

 

Rob ACORN

Green councillor Rob Telford at an ACORN picket of Tobie Holbrock who was refusing to repair unacceptable mould in his rental properties

Its been my great honour to be at the centre of most of this activity, but it was my leading role in organising the Bristol rally against the Trade Union Bill last November that was one of the most fulfilling actions. This brought Greens, trade unionist and members of the local Labour Party together with hundreds of ordinary Bristolians for a rally and demonstration in the fountains against the draconian bill, and imbued us with the spirit to resist these unjust laws.

 

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Concord Health UNISON branch officer Mandy Robinson takes to the mike against the TU Bill, with me and Green comrades in the background. November 2015

Unlike the Labour party that won’t support strikes because it thinks it has to appear to be neutral to look like a party of government, the Green party is unashamed in its support of ordinary people trying to protect their rights and improve their lives.  Just as it is unashamed of its support for all groups trying to enact positive social change. On picket lines, marches and demonstrations across our city the Greens are an increasingly regular and prominent fixture. Both in the council and in the streets of our city the Bristol Green party is taking a bold stand for people and planet, and I’m proud to be a part of it

Bristol Greens marching

Bristol Greens joining the thousands braving the wet weather for the Bristol Climate March last November.

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Some of the Greens at the Bristol People’s March for the NHS 2015

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Greens protesting government plans to Scrap the Human Rights act and other things at the Bristol Makes Some Noise against austerity protest last year

Some videos: –
me speaking at the Don’t Bomb Syria rally-  https://www.facebook.com/BristolPeoplesAssembly/videos/1678031245741863/~

Anna speaking at ‘How do we Stop the Tories in their Tracks’ –

Green Party deputy leader Shahrar Ali speaking at the Scrap Trident rally –

 

 

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Bristol Politics, Trade Unions and Industrial Disputes

#Bristol #KillTheBill – #NHS #Right2Strike Speech

Bristol KillTheBill protesters send their solidarity to victimised UNISON steward Sandy Nicole

Bristol KillTheBill protesters send their solidarity to victimised UNISON steward Sandy Nicole

Green Party mayoral candidate Tony Dyer gives an impassioned speech against the bill

Green Party mayoral candidate Tony Dyer gives an impassioned speech against the bill

Tonight in Bristol we had a very inspiring rally against the Trade Union bill with some rousing speeches from people across the movement.  I’d been asked to speak and had prepared a short piece on our NHS strike last year, but in the end there wasn’t time so I thought I’d put it on here so it didn’t go to waste.

My friends I wanted to speak tonight about the strike we had in the NHS over pay last winter, and how this draconian anti-democratic Trade Union bill would have effected it and me and my fellow NHS workers.

The NHS and its staff have taken a hammering since the Conservatives first got in with their Lib Dem enablers back in 2010.  Putting aside the backdoor privatisation and the continual outsourcing of staff and services – which is undermining the very foundation of the NHS and is a huge drain on resources – times for NHS workers are bleak.

Between 2010-214 we lost around 35,000 NHS staff (including around 7000 front-line nurses).  At the same time hospital usage is continually going up, by 10% between the winter of 2013 and 2014 alone.  This is because cuts to social care and care in the community are forcing into hospitals more and more people who would have been kept well at home.  Less and less staff are being asked to do more and more work.  All the while our pensions have been attacked (we now pay in more each year, for more years, and get less out at the end) and we haven’t had an above inflation pay rise since the reckless gambling of the banks crashed the economy back in 2008, reducing real incomes by up to 10%.

Even with all this, it wasn’t until last winter that enough was enough and our unions felt able to go on strike after the government refused to give us a 1% pay rise (whilst MPs gave themselves an 11% raise).  NHS workers are not militant by nature.  This was the first national NHS strike since 1982. None of us got into this line of work to get rich (over 77,000 of us didn’t even get the living wage before the strike – me included – and many staff have had to resort to food banks to survive), but to care for people.  This duty of care makes staff feel uneasy taking action, and is why unlike most strikes we try to cause as least disruption as possible to essential services.

As a result of our action the government came back to the negotiating table with a new offer.  It wasn’t perfect (excluding staff at the top of the pay scale from the pay rise), but it did give a 1% rise to most staff, and staff on the bottom of the pay scale like me received a raise of up to 5%. A 5% raise hasn’t been revolutionary in my life, but it has had a significant impact on helping me cope with the continual spiralling cost of the basic necessities of life.  This is one of the many reasons we need unions.  They’re our voice at work and stand up for our interests across society.

If this bill had been in place our strike simply could not have happened. The new law puts a 50% minimum turnout threshold on all strike ballots.  But because the NHS is an ‘essential’ public service a minimum of 40% of all members of the union must vote yes for the strike to go ahead.  On a 50% turnout that would mean you’d need 80% of staff to vote yes.  Almost impossible in an industry with over 1 million staff in vastly geographically dispersed workplaces.

Even if we did manage to strike, the new law would have allowed hospitals to replace us with agency staff, making action pointless (and possibly endangering lives of patients).  This isn’t even the most ridiculous part of the bill, which would make picketers wear armbands (or face a £20,000 fine) and force unions to inform police of all strike related communications (including facebook and twitter) two weeks in advance (not to mention attacks on facility time, and the financial basis of unions).

This is a full on assault on our ability to organise to defend our interests at work and resist the Conservative austerity drive that is so impoverishing both our communities and our planet.  It is a travesty, a partisan attack motivated only by the desire to clampdown on resistance to the Conservative attacks on ordinary people and our welfare state.

We have to unite to resist the passage of this bill, and should it become law, work together to defeat it.  If this bill becomes law, we need to be prepared to break that law to defend our interests, and we need the whole movement to rally behind any union that does so.  Only together can we overcome.  Thank you for listening to me, and thank you all for coming out to support this demonstration this evening. You all give me hope that this isn’t over, and together we can win.  Solidarity!

Concord Health UNISON branch officer Mandy Robinson takes to the mike, with me and Green comrades in the background

Concord Health UNISON branch officer Mandy Robinson takes to the mike, with me and Green comrades in the background

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