Thousands of council workers across two cities are set to join the planned mass strike against the cuts on Thursday 30 June.
Both Birmingham and Doncaster Unison union branches are balloting their members over attacks on jobs and conditions. A yes vote could see them take part in what will be a day of rage against the government.
Around 270,000 members of the PCS civil service union and 290,000 members of the NUT and ATL teachers’ unions are balloting for strikes as well.
Eighty thousand lecturers in the UCU union are preparing to strike in defence of their pensions.
Birmingham City Council is the largest council employer in the country. More than 10,000 workers there could strike for two days on 29 and 30 June.
The Tory-Lib Dem run council’s cuts package will destroy services—and hit workers’ pay.
The reality was brought home to council employees last week. Bosses want workers to sign up to a new contract dubbed the “Martini Contract”, because it demands that people be ready to work any time, any place, anywhere.
As part of this, the council sent out letters to workers telling them how much their wages will be reduced.
“We held mass meetings after this,” said Caroline Johnson, assistant branch secretary of Birmingham City Unison.
“There was a real sense of urgency—people are scared but determined to fight. Everyone can see that the new contract will take away almost all our rights at work. The majority of those who will lose out are women in low paid jobs.”
A home care worker told a meeting last week how she had already accepted downgrading to avoid being made redundant.
“She lost £8,000 per year just to keep her job,” added Caroline. “Now she has received a letter saying that her £14,500 a year salary is to be cut by a further £4,500.
“She is desperate. Her husband is disabled and she has a four year old son. She is the sole breadwinner in her family—they cannot survive on £10,000 a year.
“We must win the biggest yes vote possible and deliver a strike that will shut down the council.”
In Doncaster, almost 5,000 Unison members are balloting.
Jim Board, the branch secretary of Doncaster Unison, said, “At Christmas 400 jobs went through voluntary redundancy, and we know they are going for another 350.
“Everyone is talking about how we will be on strike at the same time as hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers.
“We can defend our jobs and conditions, but if we all fight together we can bring this government down.”
Activists in the PCS, NUT and ATL are mobilising to win their ballots.
Many see the strikes on 30 June as the launchpad for even bigger action in the autumn.
“Co-ordinated strikes at the end of June are the first step to pulling much wider groups of unions and workers into action against the Tories,” said Andy Reid, a PCS national executive member.
Thursday 30 June is shaping up to be a major day of resistance to this disgusting government. Everyone should throw themselves into mobilising to make the strikes as powerful as possible, and support those taking action.
Workers losing out in Birmingham
In Birmingham, Unison is organising local planning meetings for members and activists—including all council unions, Birmingham Against the Cuts and members of other unions striking on 30 June.
“We know we are stronger united,” Caroline told Socialist Worker.
“We are standing up with other workers and service users. We have public support too because our action is about jobs and about the services that we provide and use.
“Our message is a simple one: we didn’t cause this recession, we aren’t responsible for it and we are not going to pay for it with our jobs and services.”
The new contracts issued by Birmingham City Council mean that weekend, shift, split duty, unsocial hours allowances and night pay will be scrapped for 8,500 staff.
Workers will be forced to work changing shift patterns—and be available seven days a week, evenings and weekends, without any additional pay.
Workers owed back pay for their shift work will not see a penny.
Library assistants are set to lose £2,700 a year, residential care assistants £3,150, home carers £2,254, leisure assistants £2,700, assistant rangers £3,200 and park rangers £4,100.
This estimate is based on average wages and additional payments.
Birmingham council chief executive Stephen Hughes grabs more than £200,000 a year.
Winning the yes vote
Jim Board, the branch secretary of Doncaster Unison, spoke to Socialist Worker about the struggle in the city
‘Council bosses have been doing everything they can to undermine our fight.
Management are trying to bully workers who are standing up against them, while also dismissing strikes as being ineffective.
We are producing leaflets arguing why it’s right to strike and responding to the bosses’ propaganda.
They keep saying there have to be some cuts.
Rob Vincent, the chief executive of Doncaster council, claimed at a recent council meeting that “we all have the same interests”. But he is on £176,000 a year.
We have to get to speak to every union member and win them to voting yes in the ballot.
We are taking out full page adverts in the two main local papers.
We are directing our argument at Unison members as well as local people who use the services we provide.
We are also calling on the Labour councillors to stand with their communities and workforce rather than attacking jobs and services.
Workplace meetings are organised every day.
We should all strike in solidarity with those that face losing their jobs today—any of us could be next in line.
Everybody knows what the scale of the attack is.’