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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation (Sheffield), Fargate Speaker #12

Date Tue, 09 Feb 2010 13:47:38 +0200

In This Issue: More rises in bus fares, discontent in the fire service, continuing look at Sheffield?s radical history, film review and more ... ---- Image - application/pdf 566K SHEFFIELD CLAIMANTS UNITE! ---- The new year saw the launch of a new Claimants and Unemployed Workers group for Sheffield. The aim of the group is to fight for the rights of people in the benefit system and put an end to harassment and unfair treatment. It can often be really hard just getting through the paperwork to claim the benefits that people are owed, so the new intiative is founded on the principle that we have to stick together to get what we want. ---- At the launch meeting members of LCAP (London Coalition Against Poverty) came to share their experiences with the new group and advice on winning battles in the benefit system.

LCAP has won a number of high-profile victories recently including gaining improved housing for their members and overturning decisions to cut off benefit payments. The Sheffield group intends to meet regularly and welcomes both claimants and workers currently in employment. It?s organised on a non-hierarchical basis with all the input coming from the members themselves. If you would like to find out more info about the project or come to the next meeting email: sheffdoleys@gmail.com


The aftermath of the general election will bring cuts in public services, jobs and wages, but they?ve arrived early in Sheffield. Workers in Sheffield Homes, Sheffield council?s housing organisation, are among the first to feel their effects. A shortfall, which will be paid for by cuts of £4.2 million, has appeared in the housing budget for 2010/11. More cuts will follow in 2011/12. Plans have been put forward to save thousands of pounds by slashing services, cutting wages and jobs. Senior management have attempted to pressure staff into accepting pay freezes or breaking their contract of employment.This is while the twelve top bosses are taking home more than £50,000 a year.
At a meeting on the 21st of January the unions were given until the 5th of February to
agree to a pay freeze. The unions? response has been slow. The local leaders and regional officers of UNISON and GMB, the main unions, simply reacted by insisting that they should be consulted according to procedure. No union meetings were called, leaving mangement with the initiative. Recent years have seen a lot of delays from the trade unions, along with a lack of strike ballots, branch meetings and publicity. There has been no collective tradition of fighting back. Anything from the grass roots has been frustrated by class collaborationist policies and procedures designed to avoid damaging the partnership between employers and unions. We need to reinvigorate grass roots opposition to stop these austerity proposals and defend jobs, conditions and services.
Meanwhile the long-term future of Sheffield Homes is already in doubt. In recent years, Labour has provided money to modernise council housing in Sheffield through Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) like Sheffield Homes. As a result, newer council dwellings are now more attractive than those in the private sector. However, the organisation will be out on an unviable limb when the investment money has dried up. This is part of a wider move towards the dismantling of council housing across the country. There has been a dramatic decline in spending in recent decades along with a huge drop in the building of new homes. Council rents have been artificially jacked up at a time when more and more people in Sheffield and elsewhere
desperately need cheap, rented housing. We need a push to transform housing provision from below to challenge the current bureaucratic and inadequate top-down provision.
- David Huckerby

article provided by The Commune


January almost saw another round of fire strikes only to be averted at the last moment as managers agreed to negotiate to avoid industrial action. The FBU union had called a total of ten days of strikes in response to a series of provocations by management. The root of the dispute is in attempts to impose new contracts on firefighters that would see them working longer hours, and which many firefighters fear could lead to cuts in staffing levels. There's also widespread resentmen against their employer's behaviour - a local FBU survey last year found that 97 percent of firefighters reported having been bullied. After a series of strikes in autumn last year, the bosses had agreed to negotiate, and it seemed like the dispute might be over, but they went back on the offensive at the start of 2010, threatening to sack all firefighters who didn't sign up to the new contracts by the 18th of January. In addition, one member of staff was sacked over comments allegedly made about the strike on Facebook, and six others were forced to face disciplinary proceedings.
The mere threat of strike action was enough to make the bosses back down this time, and as we go to press talks are ongoing. However, given the track record of the fire service bosses, it'd be a mistake to assume that this dispute is over. South Yorkshire's Chief Fire Officer Mark Smitherman, whose salary this year is set to rise from £148,000 to £167,000, has shown that he won't compromise unless forced to, so continuing pressure is vital if the strike's going to be won.

On the buses

?We Want Our Buses Back? march against the fare hikes in early January. (Sheffield Indymedia)

First Buses started 2010 as they mean to go
on: with another round of fare rises and prom-
ises of service cuts. Fares have been raised
by an average of 7.5%, with regular travellers
facing particularly sharp increases, as the
price of a monthly pass has gone up from £68
to £74.80 - almost £20 more than the price
of a month?s travel in Greater Manchester. A
single journey can now cost an entire £3.50.
First claim that the rise is needed to cover
staff costs, but this claim doesn?t stand up to
scrutiny, as they?ve been happy to raise prices
while freezing pay in the past. A recent report
from the Office of Fair Trading accused both
First and Stagecoach for delivering poor value
for money.

Worryingly, the Sheffield Bus Agreement
which safeguards current routes is due to
expire in April, and sharp cuts to vital routes
are likely to follow. There are reports that
First aims to pull out of all areas where they
make less than 25% profit, which would mean
cutting 20% of routes and a huge cut in driver
levels. They already attempted to cut the 86
route to Fulwood last year, which would have
left many elderly people unable to reach the
city centre, but were forced to back down
after a fightback from local residents. With the
end of the Sheffield Bus Agreement, First will
be free to make cuts without consulting the
council, abandoning all pretence of providing
a public service. John Keenan, 75, a retiree
who was involved in the campaign to save the
86 last year, pointed out the absence of low-
floored buses on the 86 route, suggesting that
the service would be more viable if it was ac-
cessible for elderly and disabled people.
The bus companies will inevitably try and set
passengers against drivers by blaming wage
costs for their decision to increase fares and
cut routes, but this is misleading. They?re out
to make as much profit as possible, so they?ll
attempt to raise prices whether wages rise,
fall or stay the same. The only way there?s any
hope of cheaper buses is if popular grassroots
pressure forces the bus companies to back
down. That?s more likely to happen if passen-
ger-led groups like We Want Our Buses Back
are able to forge links with the drivers than if
each group affected by First?s greed is left to
fight on their own.

Fargate Calling!

Sheffield?s Radical History

?When they come to attack
our people, we will stand our
ground and fight!? (pt. 2)
In 1832, Sheffield held its first Parliamen-
tary election, which was accompanied by
more riots, an understandable response to
only about 3% of the population being able
to vote. Election time riots seemed to be a
fairly common feature of South Yorkshire
life before the vote was granted, as the
1865 election prompted a mob to gather
in Rotherham, smash and loot a wig shop
and attack obvious conservatives until
dispersed by troops. Interestingly, although
30 people were arrested, they were only
charged with ?riotous behaviour? and not
the more serious charge of ?rioting?, due to
a widespread feeling that their behaviour
was a legitimate way for people to express
their views at election time.

In 1893, attempts to cut the wages of
coal miners sparked off a series of riots
throughout August and September, with
disturbances at collieries including attacks
on police and property on at least 7 differ-
ent occasions during these two months,
and the red flag being flown at Bolsover.
This militant tradition carried on into the
20th Century: in August 1921, there were
a series of what the press referred to as
?Communist riots?, with fighting in Fitzalan
Square and Bridge Street, with one Alphon-
so Wilson being charged with ?charged
with inciting persons to commit a riot and
attempting to cause disaffection among
members of the police force in a speech
to a crowd of 5,000.? In May and August
1922, there were more riots by unemployed
workers, with the May riots even getting a
mention in the New York Times! The Jessop
steel company seems to have been a fre-
quent target, with the Times reporting that
?a crowd of about 3,000 people came into
conflict with the police? on the 17th August
at the Jessop steel works. It also described
the crowd as being made up of ?the unem-
ployed, headed by the extreme section?.
(concluded next issue)


The Road

Directed by John Hillcoat.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Based on the book ?The Road?, by Cormac

The Road is a very bleak, very dark film.
Often unrelentingly so. Post-Apocalyptic
films are not a new phenomenon, and, with
the recent release of ?Book of Eli?, certainly
don?t look like they?re about to become less
common. So what is it that differentiates
The Road from the Mad Max?s and I Am
Legend?s of the world? The world repre-
sented in The Road is no fantasy playground
of new possibilities and exciting adventures.
Survivors, the few that there are, scavenge
for what tinned food there is left hidden in
dilapidated kitchens and shops. There is no
room for possibility and new starts here.
Survival is the only concern; anything else
would likely get you killed ? whether by star-
vation, or at the hands of the cannibalistic
gangs that now roam the landscape, looking
for fresh meat.

This exploration of how different people
have reacted to extraordinary circumstances
is the perhaps most interesting thing. The
very best that humanity is capable of is rep-
resented in the man and the boy, who hold
onto their compassion and resolve to ?carry
the fire? in their hearts. It is this relationship,
particularly the boy?s continuing compassion
towards other people, that provides a posi-
tive undercurrent throughout the film. De-
spite the bleakness, the ultimate message is,
indeed, one of hope for humanity.

Upcoming Events:

Discussion: The rise of the far right and anti-fas-
cism (hosted by The Commune and the Anarchist
Federation in Sheffield) ? Tue 16 Feb 2010,
7pm at The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown Street,
Sheffield S1 2BS
Sheffield Social Centre ?Mash the System? Fund
Raiser ? Fri 19 Feb 2010, 10pm till 3am, at
the Casbah, 1 Wellington Street, Sheffield
for more details: sheffieldsocialcentre.org.uk
Critical Mass Sheffield ? Fri 26 Feb 2010, meet
6pm outside the Town Hall
Email: thefargatespeaker@gmail.com
Sheffield AF: http://yorks-afed.org
Yorkshire Anarchists:
AFed National: http://www.afed.org.uk
Email: info@afed.org.uk
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