TUSC brings activists together to demand Housing For All!

Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, introduces the meeting

Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, introduces the meeting

Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition held an important and successful public meeting on the housing crisis on 3 December. The meeting was joined by four residents of Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers, Sandra Sharpe who has been fighting the bedroom tax, and several young people concerned about the situation in private renting.

Nancy Taaffe, prospective TUSC candidate for Walthamstow in next May’s general election, introduced the meeting and highlighted the different campaigns that have erupted in the last year. For example, the Focus E15 Mums campaign was launched by single mothers in Newham who faced eviction from their homeless hostel because of cuts by the Labour council. The New Era campaign is fighting extortionate rent rises and possible eviction.

Nancy pointed out the important role of residents refusing to move when faced with eviction. She also called for councils to use their compulsory purchase powers to forcibly take over housing when huge rent rises are threatened and transform the units into social housing.

Sonia, from the Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers campaign, updates on the situation there

Sonia, from the Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers campaign, updates on the situation there

Locally, we are at the start of a campaign to defend Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers in Leytonstone. The council is trying to force through renovations of the blocks by a private developer. Nancy called for the £10 million (that the council has said is available) to be spent on the renovations – not held hostage to force residents to agree to the council’s preferred plan (including privatisation, sell-offs and building between the blocks).

Nancy said that those residents who want to move should be able to do so with the guarantee of secure tenancies and social rents elsewhere. But those who don’t want to move should refuse to go. We have to argue that social housing is a public good – when people move on to somewhere else, the housing should go to others from the community who are in housing need.

The consequence of these attacks on social housing, Nancy said, is that younger people are a captive market in the private renting sector. They face completely uncontrolled rents and crippling insecurity. TUSC calls for rent control, democratic rent councils to decide fair rents, an end to the bedroom tax and a mass programme of building and renovating council homes.

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, chairs the meeting

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, chairs the meeting

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, who chaired the meeting, appealed to people to collect signatures on the TUSC petition calling for rent control in the borough. She said that those social housing residents on the tenants committees in the borough could potentially get thousands of signatures between them in support of private renters, who in turn should get involved in the campaigns to defend social housing. In this way, this TUSC meeting was important for bringing people with different individual housing concerns together to agree on common demands and strategy.

What was universally agreed is that the Labour Party is not willing to take the types of action necessary to guarantee everyone a decent, affordable home. The movement developing against the housing crisis needs a political voice, which is why building TUSC, including through May’s general election campaign, is a vital part of the struggle.

TUSC calls for rent control and council house building

TUSC calls for rent control and council house building

Letter to local Labour general election candidates

The following letter will be sent to the three Labour prospective parliamentary candidates in the borough. If you are a trade unionist please add your name to the letter through the contact form a the bottom.

We are writing to you as the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for this constituency to try and arrange a time convenient for you to meet a delegation of local trade unionists and anti-austerity activists to discuss the forthcoming general election.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), co-founded by the late Bob Crow, is determined that working class people shall not pay for a crisis that we did not cause, and we will support parliamentary representatives who take the same stance.

That is why we would like to have a face-to-face meeting with you to ascertain what position you hold on the following issues that we believe are critical to reversing the austerity agenda:

* Trade union rights

Would you support the provisions in John McDonnell MP’s 2007 Trade Union Rights and Freedom Bill (on re-introducing protections for participating in industrial action, unfair dismissal, complaints to employment tribunals, automatic reinstatement, agency labour in industrial disputes, definition of a trade dispute to include associated employers, and industrial action ballots) and the re-instatement of facility time and check-off rights removed by the Con-Dem coalition?

* Restore public services and benefits

Would you support the reversal of all the cuts in public services and benefits that have taken place under the Con-Dems, including the restoration of central government funding of local authorities to at least the level that existed in 2010?

* A living wage

Would you support an incoming Labour government banning zero hour contracts and immediately introducing the ‘Living Wage’ (£7.65 an hour, £8.80 in London) as the minimum wage? In the light of the TUC’s ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ campaign, do you support the lifting of the public sector pay cap?

* Public ownership

Would you support the re-nationalisation of the railways as the first step to building an integrated, low-pollution public transport system? Would you support bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership?

As you will be aware the above policies are widely supported in the trade union movement. That is why we would like you to explain your views on these issues to a delegation of local trade unionists.

TUSC has accepted from its inception that there will be Labour candidates who share our socialist aspirations and will be prepared to support measures that challenge the austerity consensus of mainstream politics. But it is also committed to standing candidates or supporting others if that is the only way a working class anti-austerity socialist alternative can be articulated at election time.

Yours sincerely,

TUSC national steering committee:

Representatives from the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union (RMT), the Socialist Party, the SWP and the TUSC Independent Socialist Network; plus, in a personal capacity, Steve Gillan , POA General Secretary; Chris Baugh , PCS Assistant General Secretary; Joe Simpson , POA Assistant General Secretary; John McInally , PCS Vice-President; Ian Leahair , FBU National Executive; Nina Franklin , ex-NUT President; Brian Caton , ex-POA General Secretary; Cllr Keith Morrell (Southampton); Cllr Don Thomas (Southampton); Nick Wrack .

Registered officers with the Electoral Commission:

Chairperson – Dave Nellist ; National Nominating Officer – Clive Heemskerk

Sign the letter:

Help us collect 4,000 signatures for rent control

Collecting signatures in Leytonstone

Collecting signatures in Leytonstone

During our campaign for the local elections in May, we promised to campaign for decent and genuinely affordable housing, regardless of the outcome. The 5,482 votes we received were a roaring endorsement for these policies (you can read our programme on housing here ) So now we’re stepping up the campaign.

As a first step, we want to collect the 4,000 signatures necessary to force a debate in the council chamber on the issue of rent control. If we reach the target by the start of October, we will be able to put our case and demand an answer from the councillors on why they seem unwilling to take action to ensure everyone in the borough can afford a decent place to live.

We will have activities across the borough almost every day over the summer and into the autumn. Stop by one of our stalls or get in touch to find out when we’ll be near you if you’d like to come along to help.

You can also collect signatures yourself – download the petition here and ask friends and family to sign and then return the form to us: paper_petition_template_rentcontrol

The petition can also be signed online here – please circulate on all email loops and social media.

Where next for TUSC in Waltham Forest?

5,482 votes: Where next for TUSC in Waltham Forest?
Open TUSC committee meeting
7.30pm Monday 16 June
The Red Room, Rose and Crown pub, Hoe Street, Walthamstow

If you stood as a candidate or supported the local election campaign, come along to have your say on the campaign and on where we go from here.

1. Analysis of local election campaign and results
2. Material and communications
3. Organising – structures, getting people involved, finance, activities
4. Meetings – committee, public, workplace groups
5. Initial discussion on general election

For your info, here is an open letter from the TUSC steering committee with guidance to candidates and activists.

If you haven’t yet seen it, here is the report on the blog of the campaign and results

TUSC campaign a success for anti-cuts movement in Waltham Forest

Campaigning on Walthamstow Market

The results
In our first time standing widely across the borough, Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) gained 5,482 votes. This is a great success for our 33 candidates and all supporters and campaigners.
TUSC candidates received 3% of the overall vote, which is about 5% when adjusted for the number of seats we stood in. In High Street ward, where we stood a full slate, we got 5.2% of the vote; the same in Leytonstone with 4.9%. Our highest vote, 362 for Dan Gillman in Markhouse, means more than 11% of voters in the ward voted for Dan. That our vote held up regardless of how many candidates stood in each ward shows the real advantage of standing widely and will hopefully encourage other trade unionists and campaigners to join us next time to ensure we can contest all 60 seats.

Some of our candidates

The stand
Even before election day, the campaign was a big achievement. Working class people are told that politics is not for us – to leave it to the men in suits. So to gather 33 ordinary people who live and work in Waltham Forest to stand against all the pro-cuts parties, was a feat in itself. Our list included 5 workers from Whipps Cross hospital, 4 members of the RMT transport union (which supports TUSC nationally and also helped fund the campaign) a firefighter, teachers, young people and community activists.
We all pledged something that none of the other parties will dare to – we would vote against all cuts to jobs and services and stand side by side with the people of Waltham Forest to lead a mighty campaign against Eric Pickles and the Con-Dem government. Instead of a fight like this, Labour councillors meekly put up their hands in favour of cuts and claim there’s nothing they can do.

Preparing the cars for our cavalcade

The campaign
If election results depended purely on who had run the best campaign, TUSC would have been the hands-down winner. For months our pink ‘rent control’ banner and signs have made a splash on street corners and at stations around the borough.
Our demand for rent control to bring down rocketing rents and investment in building affordable council housing got a huge echo. We heard horrifying stories of families living in cramped, damp conditions, facing eviction for raising maintenance problems and paying astronomical sums.
We spoke to thousands of people on our rent control flashmobs, knocking on doors in our target wards and leafleting at supermarkets and schools. With relatively small numbers of campaigners and finances compared to the mainstream parties, we managed to leaflet 6 wards fully and another 3 partially. On all of these activities it was clear that the majority in Waltham Forest are sick of the mainstream parties and were pleased to learn of an anti-cuts, working class alternative.
On our final canvass, the night before the election, someone said he would definitely vote for us because we are saying what Labour leader Ed Miliband should be saying but is too scared to.
On election day we campaigned in Walthamstow Market all day and at stations across the borough at commuter times. It was clear that the campaign had made a mark – people enthusiastically wished us good luck and told us that they had or would vote for us. One woman told us she was so pleased she had met us as she wasn’t sure what she was going to do at the ballot box or if she would even bother voting. This shows with bigger numbers, which we’re sure to build up before the next elections, we could have offered an alternative to even more people.

Campaigning on election day

The future
The very good results in Waltham Forest are part of a national picture where over 65,000 votes were won by 560 candidates and one TUSC councillor, Keith Morrell in Southampton, was reelected. Given the limitations we faced – in particular a complete media blackout of the project – this is a roaring endorsement for TUSC’s clear anti-cuts stand.
We’re already looking ahead to the general elections and beyond. In Waltham Forest we will have monthly TUSC committee meetings, open to anyone who wants to help build TUSC in the area. We will continue our campaign for rent control in the borough – initially by collecting the 4,000 signatures needed to force a debate on the issue in the council chamber.
These elections were just the start.

Rousing rally to mark end of fantastic campaign

60 people attended a rousing rally to mark the last few days of the Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition local election campaign. A sample of our 33 candidates explained what had made them stand and what they want to see next.

A section of the meeting

Paula Mitchell, candidate for William Morris, chaired the meeting. She pointed to the huge success of getting a list of 33 working class candidates together in the first place. She explained that this is part of a wider picture including 190 candidates in London and 560 across the country – all standing firm against the cuts agenda of the big business parties.

Glenroy Watson from the RMT transport union and candidate in Chapel End explained his union’s official backing for TUSC. He argued that the attacks on the tube, which only amount to 6% of the cuts planned, and the strikes in response, show that a political voice willing to support workers in struggle is essential.

Senan, from Tamil Solidarity and candidate in High Street ward, explained the particular problems facing the black and Asian communities in the borough. He said that despite the racism and cuts of all the mainstream parties there is a tradition of voting Labour, which TUSC is offering a real alternative and challenge to.

Nic Fripp, cyclcing campaigner and candidate in Grove Green, said he was pleased to see so many young people at the meeting and involved in TUSC generally. He reported on recent victories for cycle safety, showing what an impact campaigning can have.

Joel Hirsch, from the Socialist Workers Party and candidate in Markhouse, spoke about the attempts of the mainstream politicians, particularly Ukip, to blame immigrants and turn working class people against each other.

Tim Roedel, branch secretary of the local Fire Brigades Union and candidate in Grove Green said he decided to stand because “enough is enough” – Waltham Forest has lost half of its fire cover due to cuts.

Aidan Taylor, Whipps Cross hospital worker and candidate in Leytonstone, said that all the cuts and privatisation in the NHS had been a bit factor in him deciding to stand. He had a clear message for Labour councillors: if you’re not going to stand up and fight, stand aside for those of us who will.

Nancy Taaffe, campaign coordinator and candidate in High Street, congratulated everyone on taking part in the campaign. She said that we have shown that standing in the elections is not just for the rich and powerful and have offered people an alternative to voting for the people who have attacked their jobs and services. Nancy called for TUSC to continue after the election, particular campaigning for trade unions to disaffiliate from Labour and form their own, new party.

£257 was raised during a collection and people pledged to raise more outside the meeting to help cover the costs of the tens of thousands of leaflets that have been produced. Everyone took away posters for their windows and to give to friends, and leaflets for their streets. It was clear that Thursday is not the end and that all candidates and supporters are keen to continue working together to provide an alternative to austerity after the election.

Why we’re standing: Wood Street candidates

Lee Hawksbee

Wood Street candidates are Lee Hawksbee and Steve Poole:

On 22nd May we will be standing as TUSC candidates in the local elections in Wood Street, where we both live. We are standing because we are tired of all politicians and councillors from the main parties voting for cuts and privatisation of our services. We live in one of the top 10 richest countries in the world so it is a lie that cuts are essential. Since the crisis in 2008, the incomes of the richest have soared but workers are forced to cope with declining wages and reduced services. We don’t need councillors that have already decided to stick their hands up and vote for cuts; we need people that will fight to secure the funding that our borough needs. As representatives of TUSC we will do this.

Education, Education, Education…Profit
● No Cuts at Woodside Academy

TUSC opposed Woodside School becoming an Academy and believe that all schools in the borough should be democratically owned and managed by those who deliver the service, not simply handed over to be controlled by unaccountable private interests. Since becoming an Academy, staff at Woodside School are facing cuts and changes to their working conditions. As councillors we will continue the TUSC campaign to bring this school back under local authority control and to oppose ALL cuts to the pay and working conditions of the dedicated staff.

Wood Street Clinic
Have you tried desperately in vain to contact Wood Street Clinic by telephone? It is an unspoken acknowledgement that you have to physically go there to make an appointment. We believe that this is not the fault of the staff, but is due to cuts and an overstretched health service. Quite simply we would campaign for more resources for the borough’s essential health services.

Housing crisis
● Decent Council Housing – No Sell-Offs

In 2014 everyone deserves to live in decent housing with a secure tenancy. The lack of adequate housing in the borough has forced workers into the arms of rip-off private landlords who provide sub-standard accommodation at inflated prices. There are already plans to re-develop areas in Wood Street, but we can’t allow the same sort of development that has happened elsewhere in the borough. Land and buildings that were once publicly owned have been given over to private building companies or housing associations to make a profit. These properties that spring up do not solve the housing crisis, they merely profit from a crisis situation. As councillors we will campaign for:
• Rent controls to regulate private landlords
• A massive programme of investment to build and renovate council homes
‘Regeneration’ in Wood Street must not mean increased rents, insecure tenancies and sell offs of council properties. The people of Wood Street deserve improved housing and public space, not profit driven developments that price them out of the area.