MORE than 3,000 Newham council workers in east London were set to strike on Wednesday of this week in defence of their union.
The workers in the Unison union are stepping up the action following the suspension of the union branch chair Michael Gavan.
Workers in the council are furious that the council suspended Michael.
Newham council accuses the Michael of “gross misconduct” and he is facing dismissal if the claim is upheld at a hearing on Thursday.
Michael’s union branch vigorously denies the claims and is clear that the attack is an attempt to break the union branch – while he has been suspended the council has launched a major attack on organisation in the refuse and cleansing department.
It has closed down the canteen, banned mass meetings and is attempting to “reorganise” by introducing cuts and contracts designed to allow annualised working,with shifts decided at short notice.
In other sections redundancies have been announced including a number of union stewards. The recognition that it is an attack on the right to organise lay behind a majority of 85 percent in the strike vote.
As the Newham Unison point out, “The result – obtained despite hundreds of ballot papers being delayed by the post strikes – shows that we are not conned by council propaganda.
“Michael Gavan, our chair, is not being disciplined for any ‘employee’ matter. His work record is impeccable.
He is charged with, “not acting in the best interests of the council while carrying out union duties,” and meeting workers in refuse and cleansing to fight privatisation, job and pay cuts.
“If they sack Michael it is going to be harder to fight redundancies and pay cuts.”
On Monday school workers were ringing the union office to join before the strike, and Unite union members were pledging not to cross picket lines. Parents in several schools were notified of closures because of the strike by Monday lunchtime – within hours of reopening after half term.
One council worker told Socialist Worker, “Michael has stood up and defended us on many occasions. It is only right we came out today to defend him against the council.”
Michael’s suspension came after Sir Robin Wales, the Labour mayor of Newham, launched an attack on the union complaining that it stood in the way of total flexibility and pay cuts.
Michael is a well-respected representative. He is now banned from assisting anyone who faces sickness or disciplinary charges.
Rally in support of Michael Gavan Wednesday 11.30am onward, St Johns Church, Stratford. Messages of support phone Newham Unison on 020 8555 9351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org