Socialist Worker

Surrey council workers set to strike over pay

Issue No. 2029

Council workers in Surrey were set to strike for one day on Thursday of this week over pay.

The Unison union, which represents about 3,000 workers at the council, called the strike after a 74 percent vote for action.

“Surrey County Council has local pay bargaining,” said Paul Couchman, Unison convenor for adult services. “Our members are extremely angry that they have imposed a 2 percent pay deal on us.”

The workers have demanded a 4 percent pay rise, or £500, whatever is greater, backdated to April 2006. The council, taking its lead from chancellor Gordon Brown’s call for public sector pay to be capped, wants them to take a 2 percent pay rise this year, and 2 percent next year.

With the retail price index, a measure of inflation used by some unions, set to reach 4 percent by the end of the year, the deal could amount to an effective 4 percent pay cut over two years.

It took an earlier threat of strike action to force the council to concede over the question of backdating. “We were having a ‘Business Delivery Review’, where they wanted to cut £50 million,” said Paul Couchman.“We felt that our local branch was not up to the mark.”

“So in February this year we had a vote of no confidence and put a new leadership in place. We campaigned across the council and won a 78 percent vote for action.”

The council held an emergency meeting and met the union’s demand. However, this time the council shows no sign of backing down.

The workers were set to picket offices across the council, and then hold a rally, from 11am, at County Hall, Kingston.

In a separate dispute, social workers in the council were starting an indefinite work to rule on Monday of this week, as well as joining the Thursday strike.

The action is in opposition to staff shortages, excessive workloads and unpaid overtime.

The Approved Social Workers (ASWs) want £3,000 each in compensation.

Unison, which represents the workers, claims there are fewer than 40 ASWs in place across Surrey, while the statutory minimum is 72.

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Sat 2 Dec 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2029
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