Workers at Falkirk council held a one strike on Monday 18 December against the council's plans to impose wage cuts to pay for single status. The workers are members of GMB and Unison unions. They both held ballots at the same time, which decided in favour of industrial action to resist the council's attacks on wages and conditions.
Workers are angry that some will have to choose between a cut in wages or no job at all in order to pay for single status. Workers are clear that although only some are put in this position, all workers are affected by the attacks on conditions.
At a picket line outside council offices, Olivia Dewar, Youth Worker and Unison Welfare Officer, said, 'Our parents and grandparents fought for our rights years ago. Now the council are removing overtime and irregular hours payments. They're even trying to remove our tea breaks. The council want to change our core hours to 7am-8pm. After that they want to reduce the overtime rate to only 1.2 times normal rate.'
She said, 'We are making a stand today because we need to think of future generations. There's 11 percent getting a wages cut but there's changes in conditions for everyone.'
At Inchyra Road depot, one worker had his wages cut 23 percent this week as the council imposed the new terms. Workers said their wages were being frozen for four years. This was supposed to be a cushion against wage cuts, but they didn't know what was coming next. Also, as the cushion was calculated on last year's bonus figures not this year's, they had lost £1,000 a year straight away!
One worker said, 'The changes affect family life. We expect to be rewarded for working overtime and giving up family time but not any more. The whole thing is rank rotten. They can afford Trident missiles but can't fund our wages. They just give us uncertainty.'
Willie McLean, GMB Roads Department steward at Grangemouth Road was equally angry. He said, 'Conditions have been bought off over the years. The council are changing everything. The workforce have given everything off their backs. We're now worse off than we were ten years ago.'
Three hundred people came to a march and rally in support of the strikers last Saturday, 16 December. Banners from GMB, Unison and T&G branches from over the country could be seen. Gray Allan of Falkirk Unison branch asked where was the justice in a system that robs one low paid worker to pay another.
Margaret Cook of Unison said that people all over Scotland were watching what happened in Falkirk, as the outcome would affect them too. She said that she was very pleased with the turnout, especially given the short notice. She was also pleased with the numbers joining her Unison branch because of the dispute and the numbers of new workplace contacts.