'WE SUPPORT the sick and lonely. Sefton think of money only!' chanted over 100 home carers as they paraded through the main shopping streets of Southport, Merseyside, last Saturday. The march was in protest at Sefton council's decision to privatise the home care service and close four residential homes. This will put 408 jobs at risk.
Over 200 home care workers and their supporters had marched from Bootle to Crosby town hall the previous week. The Southport protest ended in a rally addressed by representatives from the UNISON and GMB trade unions, and two ex-councillors who had resigned from the Labour Party. GMB senior shop steward Joan Wignall summed up the feeling of the march when she told the rally, 'This is not just about jobs, but about protecting those services for the people of Sefton.'
COUNCIL WORKERS in Haringey, north London, have sent a clear message to their Labour council over its plans to impose harsh new terms and conditions. The council wants to halve maternity leave for women employed prior to 1993, cut manual workers' London weighting and stop premium payments for weekend and evening work. The plans also include not paying staff for the first two days of sickness, forcing some staff to work an extra hour a week, and reducing car allowances.
But last week saw UNISON members deliver a thumping 85 percent majority in a ballot for strikes across the council. Strikes are now set for 7, 15 and 16 December. Workers in the TGWU and GMB unions are now balloting over the same issue.
LABOUR controlled Derbyshire County Council has threatened to dock the pay of its home helps by up to 20 percent if they refuse to be 'tagged'. This disgraceful move comes after home helps voted by 93 percent to boycott the introduction of 'electronic time sheets' - a system devised to monitor their every move.
At the same time as Labour councillors were discussing docking home helps' pay, they voted to recommend more than doubling their own attendance allowances. The home helps are now taking their protest to the streets with a march and rally in Chesterfield marketplace on Saturday 27 November at 1pm.
Messages of support and donations: c/o Derbyshire County UNISON, Smedley Street, Matlock, Derbyshire. Phone 01629 582 266, fax 01629 580 327.
AFTER A long running campaign against the imposition of a £250 car parking tax, workers at Gloucester City Council are celebrating victory. After a very effective one day strike last week, the council leader offered to withdraw charges for existing staff. The Labour council still intends to charge new staff, although at a reduced rate. Workers voted to accept the deal, although a substantial minority voted against.
The strike was the culmination of a campaign which had seen a sustained series of protests. The mood in council offices on Friday was electric. Management even agreed to allow strikers to book an extra day's flexi for the strike day. Banners and placards proclaiming victory spontaneously appeared in a number of offices. UNISON membership has shot up, and the applause a 200 strong march through the city last week won from passers by shows the support unions can get when they fight back.
RAGE - the Birmingham campaign against the privatisation of elderly people's homes - lobbied Birmingham City Council on Wednesday of last week. The angry protest drew together pensioners, staff and students. The chanting reflected the disgust people felt at the Labour council, who, when elected, promised funding for the elderly. The campaign now plans to lobby the high court judicial review in London on 3 December.
For transport details phone UNISON Birmingham branch on 0121 631 1136.
GLASGOW'S NEW Labour council was forced into a humiliating climbdown last week. A row broke out after council workers used the internal phone system to buy tickets for last Saturday's Scotland-England match. Encouraged by a hysterical media campaign, council leaders promised disciplinary action.
The local UNISON branch secretary was attacked in the local press for committing the union to defending anyone singled out. But the union then won its case in the courts.The council dropped almost all threats of disciplinary action. The speedy and decisive response of the local UNISON branch was widely compared by members with its failure to resist huge cuts and defend two stewards sacked recently.
SOME 120 council workers belonging to the UNISON, GMB and UCATT unions held an angry lobby of Plymouth council on Monday of last week. The Labour council wants a package of new local conditions which cut holidays and car allowances. UNISON and the GMB are now holding consultative ballots for industrial action.
STOP PRESS: Council workers in Wandsworth, south London, have voted by 79 percent to strike on Wednesday against the Tory council's sickness policy. Full story next week.