Socialist Worker

Surrey council faces revolt over low pay

by Andy Lawson and Kieran Crowe
Issue No. 2030

Rallying in Kingston during the strike on Thursday of last week  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Rallying in Kingston during the strike on Thursday of last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Around 3,000 council workers in the Unison union struck at Surrey County Council on Thursday of last week over pay.

Two hundred strikers rallied outside the council’s headquarters in Kingston.

The workers have demanded a 4 percent pay rise, or £500, whatever is greater, backdated to April 2006.

About 35 workers joined picket lines outside Surrey’s Guildford offices. Nick Kirk, the Unison young members’ officer told Socialist Worker: “It’s been a good turnout today.

“Only about 20 people have gone in at these offices. It’s not an easy place to organise, but lots of us are going to Kingston for the mass rally.

“The mood’s been good. Plenty of people are up for a fight, and are fed up with being low paid. Lots of people with important jobs such as teaching assistants from special schools, who get crap pay, have been on picket lines today.”

Another picketing worker spoke about the intimidation tactics that management had used in the run-up to the strike.

Workers, regardless of whether they were union members or not, were e-mailed by management and asked to state in advance if they would be striking. Their responses were then recorded by management.

Social workers took part in Thursday’s strike. They have launched an indefinite work to rule in their campaign over excessive workloads and unpaid overtime.

Brendan, a striking social worker, told Socialist Worker, “In addition to the pay aspect of the dispute there is a dispute regarding approved social workers’ overtime.

“Approved social workers are short-staffed, particularly in areas like mental health support. If you are looking after people with mental health needs and there isn’t someone to take over your shift when it ends, you can’t just go home.

“Some of us work massively longer hours then we are paid for – 12 hour stretches in some cases.

“We asked the council for the option of either time off in lieu to make up for extra hours or paid overtime and a goodwill payment of £3,000.

“The council is refusing to offer any payment or paid overtime to any social workers, which we think is unreasonable. Not only that, but it has been completely opposed to any attempt to negotiate over the issue.

“Rather than dealing with us, they are trying to demoralise us by doing things like paying childcare staff overtime to free up extra social workers, or hiring locums at £36 an hour. Management seem prepared to go to any lengths not to meet our demands.

“We are confident that this strike will force management to change their position and have also been talking to other workers like the childcare staff to get them involved.”

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Article information

Sat 9 Dec 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2030
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