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Workers strike as Labour does the dirty deed

The last time there were scenes like this at the town hall was the introduction of the poll tax. A mass of angry parents, teachers and education workers made a last ditch attempt to persuade Labour councillors to stand up to government blackmail and refuse to hand over Waltham Forest education services to EduAction . The secretary of state had promulgated an order to privatise if the councillors did not vote for it themselves.

This was the culmination of a day strike taken by about 100 workers in the NUT , Unison and the T&G on the central staff in the Municipal Office and the Education Centre in protest at having their jobs transferred to a private company. On the two large and lively picket lines strikers had little difficult in persuading other workers not to cross. The Education Centre was almost empty and the Municipal Office education department severely depleted. Passers-by and motorists stopped to take leaflets. The mail van and other deliveries turned back. Strikers and supporters were despatched to leaflet parents at local schools and to speak to staff in the lunchtime. Everywhere we were met with support. Even the local roadsweeper lent his services to get the press down to the picket line. He had earlier seen a reporter looking for us! Privatisation really is as unpopular as the poll tax.

In the evening the campaigners reassembled for the full council meeting. Only the Liberal councillors, now placing themselves to the left of Labour had decided to vote against even though they had taken no part in the campaign over the last year. Every other councillor was given a severe earbashing by the demonstrators. But to add insult to injury a couple of directors of Nord Anglia ( one of the partners in EduAction) suddenly turned up for the council meeting. This was a red rag to a bull. They had a hard time getting in and had to be escorted by the police. They were given front row seats in the gallery to watch the treacherous gang of Labour councillors do the bidding of capitalists by putting their hands up to siphon off taxpayers money for the pockets of their shareholders. Earlier in the year at the annual general meeting of Nord Anglia the chairman Kevin McNeany had stated, referring to the privatisation in Waltham Forest, that they believed that they could fulfil their promises to their shareholders with " these new market opportunities". He added "I am confident we are on course to meet our profit expectations". No doubt they will be giving thanks to Labour.

Apart from the Liberals only one unpredictable Labour councillor actually voted against. Another Labour councillor who had voted against in previous meetings absented himself when the vote was taken. The contract will now come into operation on September 1st

As the two directors left the building they were again berated by strikers. There is no mood just to accept this decision. This is not the privatisation of ten years ago. The mood has changed. The campaign will reconvene in September to decide what next, but borough wide and national action must be on the cards.


Linda Taaffe