Socialist Worker

Hundreds strike to defy judge's ruling

by Readers in Newcastle
Issue No. 1769

HUNDREDS OF council workers in Newcastle stayed away from work last Friday, despite their union leaders calling off a planned one-day strike in the face of an injunction.

Some 550 UNISON union members in the council had been due to stage an official strike over issues related to privatisation plans by the New Labour council. Quite rightly the local UNISON branch had announced that strikers would be picketing and calling on other UNISON members in the council, as well as members of other unions, to respect picket lines and join the strike.

On the night before the strike the council got a judge, in a shocking ruling, to give it an injunction ruling the strike illegal. If allowed to stand the implications of the injunction are very serious for people taking legal industrial action. National UNISON leaders bowed before the council and the judge, and called the strike off.

However, on Friday morning hundreds of council workers didn't turn in for work. Many didn't know that the strike had been called off. Others just decided to stay at home anyway. At the Condercum works, a council manual workers' department in the west of the city, only 20 of about 150 workers turned up for work. Those who did show up were really angry at the council and the union.

There was a feeling that if the union had defied the law it would have called the council's bluff, and that any escalation of legal proceedings would win huge support for the union in the fight against privatisation. Eventually the 20 staff at Condercum Road decided they would not go into work, in defiance of their manager who threatened them with loss of overtime if they didn't work.

The same happened at Newington Road depot and at other council workplaces. The council soon declared that anybody who had not come into work would not be disciplined but would be allowed a day's unpaid leave.

A rally during the day saw hundreds of workers join in. There is now a call for another ballot, with many workers saying that if the law is used to prevent solidarity when only some are balloted, the solution is to ballot the whole workforce.


OVER 2,000 people marched through Galashiels last Saturday to protest at the Liberal Democrat/Independent-run council's £1.5 million cuts to the education budget.

They marched through the Scottish Borders town despite the awful weather. The council is pushing through cuts in staff recruitment, grants and bursaries, and repairs and maintenance.

The demonstration was organised by the Scottish teachers' EIS union. 'I think the scale of the turnout suggests there's a real concern about the situation,' said EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith.

COUNCIL WORKERS in Hackney, east London, were meeting this week to decide the next moves in their battle against the victimisation of shop steward and chief negotiator Noah Tucker.

UNISON members voted clearly for strike action. But regional union leaders and some local officers are against calling for action. The union should call for a one-day strike on the day Noah Tucker's appeal against his sacking is heard.

This would lift workers' morale and pave the way for a battle against the cuts and privatisation the council and government plan, as well as the attacks on Noah.

PARKING attendant members of the UNISON union working for the privatised APCOA firm in Camden, north London, voted unanimously to ballot for strike action last week against the company's harassment of union stewards.

Last week APCOA sacked Matthew Saunders, a steward, for criticising the company. The disciplinary hearing of Marcus Xbah-Rah, another suspended steward, was due to end by Wednesday of this week.

DOZENS OF people joined a vigil on Friday of last week to oppose a planned development at Swiss Cottage in north London. The development will push aside a local market, and the campaign against it has won wide support.

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Article information

Mon 1 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1769
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