Socialist Worker

Southampton social workers walk out

by Tom Walker in Southampton
Issue No. 2264

On strike last week  (Pic: Smallman )

On strike last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of social care workers at Southampton council struck on Wednesday of last week.

And at a mass meeting that day they voted unanimously to strike again.

They were set to walk out for the second time on Wednesday of this week.

That day they were set to be out together with parking workers, street cleaners and refuse workers.

Last week more than 100 picketed outside Marlands House, the main social work office.

Strikers then marched through the city centre to a joint rally with refuse workers and other council workers.

Hayley, a steward in adult social care, addressed the rally. “It’s not just about our pay,” she said. “It’s about the service we provide.

“I’m so proud to be part of the union—always, but especially today.”

The Unison and Unite union members are now into their tenth week of joint action against the Tory council forcing through 5 percent pay cuts.

“We’ve shown the Conservatives we haven’t gone away,” Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker told the rally. “We don’t accept the cuts—we will continue to fight them.

“Today’s been a great success. The fight goes on.”

And Unite regional organiser Ian Woodland told the workers they are “in the frontline of the fight against austerity”.

“We’ve seen remarkable solidarity over the last ten weeks,” said Ian. “It’s not going to end here.”

Bobby Noyes from the local trades council called their fight “inspirational”.

“What you’re doing here is encouraging people around the country facing the same threats,” she told the crowd. “Southampton is crucial.”

For some social workers the action will continue from today—workers in adoption and fostering are staying out on strike for a week.

‘You can’t just walk away from the job’

Jane, a social worker, talked about how the bosses treat Southampton workers

“They don’t understand how we work.

We often set off early in the morning, and we work right through the evening. I worked until 10 o’clock the other night.

We work on our days off. We don’t get any overtime—all the extra hours are without pay. But you can’t just walk away from the job and put it in a drawer at the end of the day.

I work with vulnerable children. People can be really distressed.

The bosses say we’re neglecting them by striking. But they’ve got no idea.

We do our best but they should have a look at the conditions we’re made to work in.

In our office we have big buckets to catch the water that comes in.

We’re made to ‘hotdesk’—so we’ll be searching around for somewhere to sit and a laptop, as we have to share laptops too.

The carpets are stained and dirty—though they’ve just had all new carpets put in for the councillors.

It’s just a complete lack of respect, and ignorance about our jobs.

No one does this job for the money. But how are we supposed to manage?”

Send donations to Unison office, Civic Centre, Southampton, SO14 7NB (cheques payable to Unison Southampton District Branch), and Unite at TGWU 2/8 strike fund, Unity Trust Bank account no. 20185358, sort code 08-60-01.

Email messages of support to [email protected] and [email protected]

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 9 Aug 2011, 18:01 BST
Issue No. 2264
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.