Saturday, 24 December 2011


People's Charter campaign, Dalton Rd., Barrow, April 2010
Some members of Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association noted with concern comments made by the New Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling, that cuts would have to be made and that these would be worse than under the Thatcher Tory government of some years ago.  (Ironic - New Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, had informed us that he'd put an end to boom and bust.
What a clown!)  Several members of the association signed the Charter Petition but very few were prepared to actually campaign for it.  Hence it was left to three members of the committee to lead by example in the hope that others would follow.  They never did.

We were there in Dalton Road again just before the General Election and each of the candidates of the three main parties gave the People's Charter stall a wide berth.  What they could not escape from, however, was the message coming loud and clear through the loud hailer warning the general public about the austerity measures that would be imposed whichever party was elected to government.  Where, we asked, is the democracy when you are given no choice except to vote for cuts?

Even though we were campaigning against any threat to reduce pensions and allowances for the over 60s we also asked why the local Trades Union Council, local unions, charities, community associations and religious organisations were not standing alongside us demanding that the public should not have responsibility for making good the deficit - ordinary people did not cause the financial crisis so should not suffer job losses or diminished income.  Neither should the unemployed, the sick nor the disabled have to endure benefit freezes or reductions.  Appeals made to these bodies fell upon deaf ears but three pensioners maintained the campaign until the spring of 2011.

And so it was that, in March 2011, the Pensioners' Association called a Public Meeting on 'The Cuts' that was held at The Forum, Barrow.  It was at this meeting that Furness Against the Cuts was established and a Steering Group met shortly after to draw up 'Agreements' and a plan of action.

Since this time, numbers on the Steering Group have been reduced because of other pressures placed upon some of them.  One has had to give up owing to working fulltime for the Unite Against Fascism organisation and another, a railway worker, has shifts that often prevent him from taking part.  Ken Arts, (pictured seated above), one of the original three pensioners and a stalwart of the campaign, sadly died and his absence is sorely felt.  The result of this reduction was realised this month (December 2011) when we had to abandon the month's street campaign owing to lack of numbers.

We were pleased when Cumbria PCS joined the campaign stall for one Saturday and used it as a platform to inform the public about the forthcoming 30th November strike -  this is exactly how we hoped the campaign stall would be used.  We are not asking other organisations to 'sign up to' Furness Against the Cuts - they can stand beside us and campaign on behalf of their own organisation.  And if several organisations chose to do this it would impress upon the public that opposition to the cuts was universal and not just unions selfishly protecting their members' pensions to the exclusion of everyone else.  

Unfortunately, other organisations in Barrow and in Furness do not yet seem to have grasped this concept (of unity) and choose to remain silently invisible.  As austerity begins to really take hold people will have less to spend so will cut back on charitable donations.  The church congregations remain dumb whilst the great and the mighty abandon Christianity and gleefully worship at the altar of Mammon.

As for the unions, having a one day strike and half-hour rally every six months will hardly impress the public (any union action needs public support if it is to have any chance of success) and will have little, if any, affect upon government policies.  Without unity, the individual unions can be 'bought off' and bring any idea of solidarity crashing down leading, ultimately, to the eventual exploitation of everyone. (It's been done many times before)

The next meeting of the Steering Group of Furness Against the Cuts will be held from 6.30 to 7.30pm on WEDNESDAY 11th JANUARY 2012, at Greengate Children's Centre, Greengate Street, Barrow. 

FAC sends seasonal greetings to all who are actively campaigning against the government's imposed austerity measures, its attacks on the Welfare State and privatisation of our National Health Service.  The People's Charter really is the only alternative for building a healthier, wealthier Britain.

Friday, 9 December 2011


The report in the NW Evening Mail claimed a total of 300 persons attended the rally, held in the town square, from 12.30 until 1.00pm. However, experienced campaigners judged the number to be at least 350 and this was considered to be a satisfactory turn out bearing in mind the absence of any proir attempts to build solidarity for the event - other than an announcement (by Alec Proffitt, Unison organiser) in the local paper some days previously.

Unions attending were Unison, GMB, PCS and NUT.  Some FBU members provided unofficial support as did Furness Against the Cuts and Unite Against Fascism.  Following talks by trade union officials, the rally concluded with a 'One Minute of Noise' with blowing of whistles and vuvuzelas (a type of kazoo-horn).  Exactly what the minute of noise was meant to achieve has yet to be revealed by the organisers.  It was noted that there was no official representation by either of the Trades Union Councils of Barrow and Ulverston or by the local Labour Party.                                                                                              

The only mention of an alternative strategy (to that of the Tory/LibDems or Labour) came from the FAC stall before the start of the rally.  If the one-day national strike had no specific political aim, then what was the point of it?  If it was just an economic protest against pension cuts then this is hardly likely to generate support by the majority of the public and leave the unions involved wide open to attacks of 'selfish self-interest' by the right wing press. FAC urges local unions to plough support into their Trades Union Councils and energise them because the councils are the legitimate means of engaging with the general public.
Most schools were shut and council offices closed. There were just emergency services operating at Furness General Hospital and the ambulances were on emergency call-out only. So local public service workers were supportive of the strike but will need something more than 'dissatisfaction' to sustain them should future strikes demand not just a day or a week but several weeks: they will require an aim and they will want to know that any action they take has a good chance of achieving that aim.  It is hoped the union leadership is wise enough to prepare for a determined struggle and to provide a strategy for success.


NOTE: As agreed at the FAC steering group meeting held on Wednesday 7th December, FAC will meet at 10am in Dalton Road on Saturday 10th to continue the campaign.  Assistance will be welcome.