Today DPAC’s Eleanor Lisney and Bob Williams-Findlay joined the PCS and Unite in the fight in Birmingham to save the Equality and Human Rights Commission at Lancaster House.
Staff at the EHRC had voted overwhelmingly in favour 1 hour strikes over plans which would effectively close the Commission ending most of its advice services to the public and communities. The first day of action is a one-hour walkout is today 11am –12pm.
The government has already announced it is withdrawing funding for the Commission’s helpline and grants programme and the Commission has also decided to close its regional offices, including the office based in Birmingham covering the West Midlands Region. These decisions will take effect by March 2012.
The Commission is proposing to more than halve the number of staff from 460 to 200 within 12 months – PCS is calling on EHRC chair Trevor Phillips to reveal his plans for the future of the organisation, challenging him to define the ‘core functions’ which he claims will be protected. The government is currently consulting over the Commission’s future and is proposing to amend the Equality Act 2006 to strip the Commission of many of its key powers and duties.
When the Commission was formed in 2007 its budget was £70 million. This was later reduced to £60 million, then £53 million by the new government last year. The government now wants to cut funding down to £22.5 million by 2015.
Cuts on this scale would mean employers and public authorities would no longer be held to account if they carried out discriminatory policies, and would also effectively end the commission’s legal work – a recent example of which ensured six million carers in Britain are protected against discrimination in employment.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members are experts in their fields and this strike vote shows they are prepared to fight to maintain a proper national equality and human rights body at a time when government cuts are making it more likely people will face discrimination and disadvantage.
“We do not accept the need for these cuts and the commission should talk to us urgently about the alternatives which would end the need for a strike and protect the vital services our members provide.”
To support the campaign:
- Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 923 to safeguard the remit, funding and staffing of the EHRC
- write to Theresa May MP, Minister for Women and Equality and other Minsters you or your organisation may have close links with asking them to maintain the EHRC functions servicing the communities.
- Sign the petition http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43944.html. Please sign the online petition against EHRC cuts and ask your friends & family to sign.
Ministers you might like to contact –
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 5206 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7219 5206 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: 020 7219 1145
Lynne Featherstone MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8401 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 020 7219 8401 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: 020 7219 0008
The Government have started their public consultation into the future of the EHRC and PCS will be shortly producing a draft response which people can use should they wish to do so. The consultation can be found here: http://www.equalities.gov.uk/what_we_do/ehrc_reform.aspx
Photos can be found here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626647211022/
There was also a demo/rally later with UNISON for CONNEXIONS workers.
The rally was addressed by Graeme Horn, Birmingham UNISON Branch Secretary, Jagdish Singh a PCS representative from the Equality and Human Rights Commission who were today also on strike opposing 68% cuts in their service and the Birmingham City Council Labour group leader, Sir Albert Bore.
Report from Birmingham Against the Cuts about the demos http://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/pcs-and-connexions-strikes/