‘The unions in Birmingham council have called for a strike of their 20,000 members on Wednesday and Thursday of next week against their single status pay settlement.
It’s clear that Birmingham council and its corporate backers want to use the settlement to make fundamental attacks on the council workforce and the users of council services – the entire Birmingham working class.
Birmingham is the largest local authority in Europe and the council seems set on blazing a trail through the hard-won pay and employment terms of their workforce.
The council also plans to use the opportunity to privatise large swathes of council services, ridding themselves of their responsibilities.
There has been a job evaluation process in which every council job has received a points score based on a number of factors.
Our pay and grading review is largely based on this job evaluation. This is how the council is seeking to implement single status.
The council wants also to introduce mechanisms whereby council jobs will be on a par with those in the private sector.
To this end, the council has drawn up and issued a new contract for all employees – one which has not been agreed with the unions.
The unions in the council have been in dispute since the contracts were issued in November last year for implementation this month. We held a successful one-day strike on 5 February against this.
The council wants a totally flexible workforce that does whichever job is required from whatever location and at a time to suit the employer.
Its proposals have been watered down somewhat since our strike. But the unions have pointed out that even if the council gives up the flexibility clauses in negotiations, the flexibility it wants can be implemented via its “business transformation” plan.
This is being introduced into workplaces and codifies the marketisation of our jobs and services. The council also wants to introduce performance related pay.
In the 1990s, with Labour in control of the council, a campaign defeated attempts to sell off a number of care homes for the elderly.
The present Tory-Liberal Democrat council has sent a commission to all these homes and other units in the elderly, learning disability and mental health services departments.
These units have all been deemed unfit, so they must close. Private sector companies are then taking over the care of the service users.
These units have been systematically underfunded for years, and they are places that the service users and workers shouldn’t have to endure living and working in.
The scale of the changes that the council and its backers want is so huge that the response of the unions must be at least as fundamental.
The unions need to use industrial action – including strike action – to resist all attempts at worsening or marketising jobs and services.
They need to draw up an alternative plan of council jobs and services – one that is based on the needs of the service users and of council employees.’