Socialist Worker

Bosses say...‘Sign up for pay cuts or you’re out’

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2223

On Wednesday 20 October, ­millionaire Tory chancellor George Osborne will unleash a torrent of attacks on jobs and services.

No one will be spared from the onslaught.

Council bosses are not even waiting for the government’s “review” before swinging the axe. They have started to drive down costs using blackmail—saying either accept big pay cuts and worse conditions, or you’re sacked.

Birmingham City Council set the standard, issuing all 26,000 council workers with redundancy notices (known as a section 188 notice or an HR1 letter) last month.

Now the letters have also been issued to:

  • 8,500 in Sheffield
  • All 11,000 council workers in Barnsley
  • 8,500 in Sheffield
  • 8,000 in Walsall
  • 4,000 in Croydon
  • 800 in Oldham
  • 500 in Havering

Other bosses are preparing the same tactic. It’s ­vital there is resistance now—just as it will be after 20 October.

“Working for a council at the moment feels like you’re facing a ‘perfect storm’,” David Hughes, vice-chair of Birmingham Unison union local government branch and a member of Unison’s local government executive, told Socialist Worker.

“Councils are using the economic crisis to attack basic conditions—services will ­disintegrate.”

David has been issued with three separate redundancy notices.

Two are city-wide, and one is as a result of plans to cut posts by a quarter across Birmingham’s

28 neighbourhood offices, where he works.

The city’s Tory-Lib Dem council wants to ram through huge pay cuts for low paid workers like cleaners and care assistants.

For example, a worker who earns £15,200 a year could see their wages slashed to less than £11,800—a cut of over £3,500.

“They want to make an example of us, and show others what’s possible” Caroline Johnson, assistant branch secretary of ­Birmingham City Unison, told Socialist Worker.

Unison, which represents the majority of council workers, is holding mass members’ meetings in the coming weeks to put forward a council wide strike ballot to members.

“At every workplace meeting I’ve done, staff are furious and worried,” Caroline said.

“We have just found out that top managers only face a cut to their car allowances.”

Henry Rajch, branch secretary of Barnsley GMB, told Socialist Worker, “The council position is ‘go voluntarily or we will sack who we want’, It’s brutal.

“I was due to retire soon at 60—now I am told I have to work five more years.

“I’ve worked in this job for 35 years and this is how I get repaid.

“We’ve got no alternative but to fight back.”

All interviews were in a personal capacity

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Article information

Tue 12 Oct 2010, 18:13 BST
Issue No. 2223
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