Socialist Worker

Birmingham council workers to strike during Lib Dem conference

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2269

Council workers across Birmingham will strike next Wednesday, embarrassing the Lib Dems as they hold their national party conference in the city.

That means on the day Nick Clegg gets up to deliver his key speech, he will be met with more than 16,000 workers on strike in his flagship Tory-Liberal council.

The Unison union members expect that the GMB and Ucatt unions will join the walkout. Their ballots were finishing as Socialist Worker went to press.

It is an escalation of the unions’ campaign against a new contract they have dubbed the “Martini contract”—because under it, workers can be forced to do “any job, any time, anywhere”. It means:

lMassive pay cuts. For example, a home carer earning £14,500 will lose £4,500. The lowest paid will be hit hardest.

lWorkers forced to work evenings and weekends for no extra pay—and anywhere in the “Birmingham conurbation”.

lWorkers made to do any job in their “job family”—a housing officer one minute, a social services worker the next.

The union says the changes are about softening the services up for privatisation. “It’s an absolute nightmare contract,” said Unison assistant branch secretary Caroline Johnson.

“It means no more Monday to Friday—we are all 24/7.”

She said workers have held meetings at 100 workplaces so far—30 in the last week. Everywhere she goes members are raging at the bosses. The union has recruited over 800 members since February.

“We can win,” Caroline added. “It’s important we get that message across.”

The council workers joined the united public sector strikes on 30 June. And after the strike this month they intend to strike again in October.

The workers were working to rule this week in the run-up to the strike. On Sunday they will join thousands of others at the TUC’s Birmingham “March for the Alternative” as the Lib Dem conference opens (see below).

Then, on the day of the strike, workers plan to picket from 7am, and protest outside the conference from 10.30am.

The unions are organising a lunchtime mass members’ meeting on the day of the strike.

Send messages of support to caroline.johnson@birminghamunison.co.uk


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