Socialist Worker

Kirkless action called off as union settles dispute

by Nick Ruff, branch chair (pc)
Issue No. 2234

The proposed five day strike by 7,500 council workers in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, was called off after the Unison union reached an agreement with employers.

The dispute began in July last year when the Labour-run council imposed new terms and conditions on its staff.

The council is attempting to push through over 100 compulsory redundancies this year. To help achieve this, it reduced redeployment times and redundancy pay and began sacking people using their sickness record.

Negotiations were going nowhere until Unison members voted to strike. But the council then made an offer that was accepted by a meeting of 86 stewards on Friday of last week.

The stewards saw the deal as a success. It includes no use of sickness in the selection process, no redundancy notices to be issued before 1 April, increased redundancy payments and union observers at all interviews.

But they accepted that this is just the first round of a much bigger fight. At the meeting there was unanimous support for the offer but a sober reflection about what needs to be done. We agreed on the significance of winning the ballot in forcing the council to back off.

However it was the stewards vote to proceed with the strike before Christmas that forced regional Unison to support the strike and led to the council’s improved offer.

The real battle is yet to come. The council recently issued a second HR1 redundancy notice covering a further 1,500 jobs.

This means that the section meetings that were originally called to organise for the strike have to take place to keep the pressure on the employers.

The 90-day consultation period before any proposals are made regarding job cuts should look at bringing any outsourced work back into the council. The strength of the union can ensure jobs and services are defended.

The stewards’ meeting agreed to campaign to ensure a massive turn-out from Kirklees Unison members on the TUC demo on 26 March.

I would also like to thank all those who sent messages of support which showed the significance of the fight our branch was leading.

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Article information

Tue 11 Jan 2011, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2234
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