The day started at 6.30am for most of the 350 or so homecare workers, organisers and clerks who are employed by Rochdale council. Picket lines throughout the borough were manned before the full light of day on Tuesday of last week.
Eighteen months ago our employers decided to cut 30 percent of the workforce, alter our working patterns, cut our pay and erode our working conditions. They thought that putting these changes through would be a doddle. The workforce are predominantly women who are dispersed at many workplaces, but these women had other ideas.
A ballot that saw an overwhelming 83 percent for strike action was the result. After giving our employers two further delays to get their act together the patience of this great set of workers wore so thin it finally snapped. Support came from every direction and for that we are very grateful. The action we took could not have happened if the elderly people of our borough and colleagues throughout social services had not given their support.
A manager was sent to an elderly lady whose husband opened the door. He told the manager to go away as he didn't want any scabs in his house. The day of action could not have gone better. On the picket lines passing cars hooted in support and thousands throughout the borough signed petitions.
The decision to take this ultimate action did not come easy. After a lot of sleepless nights and soul searching from this set of caring workers we felt this was the only way to be heard. Hopefully other groups of workers can take heart from our action.
Messages of support and donations to Rochdale UNISON, Floor 5, Telegraph House, Baillie Street, Rochdale OL16 1JA.
Home helps in Glasgow are voting on strikes after the council cut overtime pay. Some 2,500 workers, members of the GMB union, are balloting, with the result expected on Monday.
A consultative ballot has already shown 85 percent in favour of a strike. GMB organiser Robert McGregor says, 'We are not campaigning for extra money, just a return to our previous rates. 'The city council has left us with no other option.'
Hackney – How far will they go?
Hackney Council in east London has pushed through a further vicious cuts package and is attacking union organisation. The cuts passed by the Labour council last week included:
A further £500,000 slashed from the voluntary sector on top of damaging cuts rammed through earlier this year.
Clothing grants for the poorest schoolchildren entirely removed.
Cutting 100 nursery places, 150 play service places and 280 holiday scheme places.
Cutting visits from home helps from an hour to 30 minutes.
Reducing respite care for disabled children.
The council had originally planned greater cuts but had backed off because of fear of the response. As one official document says, 'There is a danger of nursery occupations by parents.'
To back up these attacks the council has threatened disciplinary action against John Page, Hackney UNISON's branch secretary. He is facing the threat of disciplinary action for alleged 'misuse of the email facility'.
The email in question asked members to print off a leaflet which outlined the impact of the proposed cuts. The council's head of human resources told John Page, 'Your actions amount to inciting staff to breach the code of conduct by using council equipment for non-council business.' UNISON must respond in the strongest possible terms at every level of the union.