Almost 8,000 council workers in the Unison union in Edinburgh are set to strike on Thursday of this week in a clash with the Liberal/SNP coalition council over proposed budget cuts and the threat of compulsory redundancies.
The strike will coincide with a full council meeting that will decide on the cuts.
A mass lobby is planned outside the council chambers to let them know we mean business and so that others can come along to support us.
In June councillors voted to accept a report that there was a council budget deficit of more than £10 million, that the reserves were exhausted, and that only a drastic package of cuts could save the situation.
The unions were kept in the dark about this until the report was published.
Most of the alleged overspend is in the children and families department and the department of health and social care.
Cuts in these services will hurt many of the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh.
However, it is likely that other departments – which are less politically sensitive – will be hit as well.
There are also hints that some managers and councillors will take the opportunity to propose outsourcing of some services as a way to make savings.
The newly elected council has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies – reversing the policy of the previous administration.
This led to an emergency union branch meeting that voted overwhelmingly for a campaign of industrial action.
The result of the official ballot was declared on Thursday of last week.
It showed a massive 71 percent vote for strike action and 84 percent for action short of a strike, reflecting the anger that people feel.
Union members have grown increasingly suspicious as management have refused to reveal exactly what services are to be axed or run down.
Representatives of the joint unions in the council were invited to meet the council’s chief executive on two occasions last week – but he didn’t show up!
The council has just announced its intention to close 22 schools and four community centres across the city.
It claims that this will save millions and is due to falling school rolls.
This has caused a storm of protest and immediately prompted parents and school students to organise a demonstration in the city centre.
There is also an ongoing campaign to halt the demolition of the Meadow Bank sports centre.
Activists are angry that the council is ignoring the findings of a working party that shows the centre can be refurbished.
Hopefully they will also join our lobby this week and help turn up the heat on the council.
Programme of action
Management have overspent their budget and now want to make staff pay for their mistakes. In particular there is a refusal to rule out compulsory redundancies.
Our Unison branch has had a policy of balloting for strike action when faced with compulsory redundancies and this has successfully prevented compulsory redundancies for many years – decades in fact.
The one-day strike is the start of a programme of action. And union members in Edinburgh council take heed and heart from the victorious strike of social workers in Glasgow council.
The success of their action has led to a debate about whether to adopt the successful tactic of indefinite strike action here.
Luke Henderson, Unison convenor, services for communities dept (pc)
Join the lobby of the council.
9.15am on Thursday 23 August, City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh City Centre.
Messages of support to [email protected]