Socialist Worker

Council workers gear up to save their jobs and services

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2237

Thousands of Birmingham council workers were holding mass meetings as Socialist Worker went to press—and looked likely to vote for an industrial action ballot.

The Unison union members were meeting in four shifts on Tuesday—morning, lunchtime, afternoon and evening.

They were voting on a motion proposed by the branch committee, which calls for a formal ballot of the council’s 26,000 workers over the imposition of new contracts.

The ballot would be for industrial action up to and including strikes.

Unison’s national leadership is thought likely to authorise the ballot if the meetings give a mandate for it.

There will also be a motion put to the meeting on fighting cuts and backing the TUC’s national demonstration on 26 March.

Unions in Aberdeen are planning industrial action as the council says it will force more than 1,000 workers out of their jobs.

The council is threatening the compulsory redundancies, equivalent to 900 full-time workers, after the unions rightly rejected proposed pay cuts.

The Lib Dem-Scottish National Party council had asked workers to take a 5 percent pay cut—to fund voluntary redundancy packages for those it wanted to get rid of.

Members

The Unison, Unite, Ucatt, GMB and EIS unions are planning a mass meeting to discuss industrial action, including possible strikes.

Unison is the biggest union at the council with 2,000 members. Karen Davidson, Unison branch secretary, said, “It was a political decision to demand this 5 percent pay cut.

“Either we accepted it or rejected it and our members have rejected it.

“The employer has treated workers with contempt and it looks as if we are bound for confrontation with the council.”

Teachers and teaching assistants in the EIS union, who are employed by the council, will also be hit by the cuts and may strike.

Hundreds of Manchester Unison members attended a series of workplace meetings across Manchester City Council—as the Unite union looked set to authorise a strike ballot.

The meetings were organised to discuss the 2,000-plus redundancies—one in six workers—at the Labour-run council.

Manchester’s funding cuts are some of the worst in Britain. The effects are already being felt, with programmes from migrants’ language support to bridge maintenance being closed down.

Discussion of the council’s redundancy and early retirement packages dominated much of the meetings.

Socialist Worker bulletins have argued for union members not to take up redundancy packages and for a strategy that follows the lead shown by students and young people in Manchester and elsewhere.

The branch has voted for a strike ballot if any member is made compulsorily redundant.

Some 3,600 council workers in Nottinghamshire are continuing to vote on strikes to stop job cuts, service cuts and privatisation.

The Unison members began their ballot on Thursday of last week. It runs until 15 February.


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News
Tue 1 Feb 2011, 17:11 GMT
Issue No. 2237
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