Unison union stewards in Newham, east London, are building for a strike set for Thursday of this week. They won a debate with regional officials over holding a second strike in protest at the victimisation of Michael Gavan, our branch chair.
Widespread anger greeted Michael’s sacking but strike action was delayed. This gave Newham council, our employer, time to organise a campaign of intimidation. On Monday it claimed the strike was illegal and threatened workers with the sack.
Unison’s regional officials warned that the council may send police to picket lines to enforce anti-union laws. They worried that activitists might be targeted for arrest.
Undeterred, union activists are building for the strike – and wherever there is effective stewards’ organisation, the strike is expected to be strong.
“We have 28 union members in the school and 28 will be on the picket line,” said one activist at Salisbury school.
“It’s the first time I have had people volunteering to join the picket line,” says one worker from the housing department, where resistance to planned redundancies and reorganisation has built stronger union organisation in recent weeks.
A mass meeting of refuse and cleansing workers was held last week.
It discussed pay cuts over single status and an attempt to push through weekend and night working without notice or additional pay.
At the meeting officials of both the T&G and Unison unions were repeatedly warned that the lack of a fight was leading to demoralisation and breaking our ability to fight.
Newham Unison branch has produced an appeal to agency workers, who now make up almost 50 percent of the workforce in some manual sections. It has been translated into several east European languages.
Despite the arguments with regional officers about the way forward and the threats from the council, we believe in combining strike action with loud and persistent protests.
That way we can build a strong campaign for Michael’s reinstatement which will show the council that the union cannot be beaten by victimising our best representative.