Hackney council workers in east London are to strike for three days from 29 to 31 January. Urgent action is needed. The leaders of the Labour-Tory coalition that runs the east London council have agreed cuts of £50 million over the next three years. This will mean assets flogged off to private developers and more privatisation of vital services such as school transport for special needs children.
It means nursery closures, old people's centres closed, and cuts in grants for vital community voluntary sector agencies. Some workers already face pay cuts of up to £4,000 a year. The council leaders are also believed to be considering giving 90-day redundancy notices to the entire workforce and re-engaging those deemed suitable on lower pay and worse conditions.
A one-day strike on 20 December showed great enthusiasm for a fight against the cuts in services and attacks on pay and conditions. Over 3,500 workers went on strike and 24 schools were closed. Now there needs to be immediate escalation. Strikers cheered when Steve Edwards, convenor of the building trade unions, told a rally on 20 December:
'This strike has made us realise we are all workers with a common interest, whatever union we may be in. We waited 18 years for a Labour government, and now we find the Labour and Tory parties holding hands in this council to push through cuts. A one-day strike will not be enough in the next phase of action.'
The council and the government which supports it are very serious about using Hackney as a test run for local authority neo-liberalism. It will take a strong campaign to derail the attacks. The move to a three-day strike instead of a one-day strike is a step forward. Council workers and others who support the struggle against the cuts need to throw themselves into building support for the next round of strikes. But they also need to argue how to push the fight further.
Over 200 council workers in the GMB and UNISON unions held an angry lobby of Plymouth council on Monday in protest at plans to cut 400 jobs and £9 million spending. A spontaneous march through the city centre won wide public support. Strikes and demonstrations last autumn stopped compulsory redundancies planned by the Tory council, saved jobs in children's services, and kept family centres and residential homes open. After Monday's march UNISON is now balloting all its members in Plymouth council for action against the new cuts.
The campaign launched by UNISON union members before Christmas to fight job losses and cuts at Labour-controlled Telford & Wrekin council is continuing. UNISON members are meeting community organisations affected by the cuts to discuss a public meeting and suggest a day of action in the town.
UNISON is also organising section meetings across the council to build support. Disgracefully, the council is seeking to victimise a union branch officer for being involved in the campaign.
Mike Jeffries, the service conditions officer, faces disciplinary charges following his involvement in a mass lobby before Christmas. The council is also seeking to remove recognition and facility time from Mike. UNISON strongly opposes this move, and ordinary members have showed their support for Mike.
Fax messages of support for Mike to Telford UNISON on 01952 201 247. Fax protests to personnel manager Robert Craggon on 01952 299 487.