On strike to defend care
OVER 1,000 council workers in Sefton, Merseyside, struck for a day on Tuesday. They were protesting against the planned closure of five residential old people's homes. The closures would cost 130 jobs, and patient care would suffer. Council workers have voted for a two-day walkout next week over the closures.
UNISON union members, and residents and their families have carried out a vigorous campaign to save the homes. At the beginning of the year hundreds of protesters had lobbied councillors at Bootle Town Hall, angry at plans to shut two homes and one respite centre. Ten thousand people signed a petition to try to save Melrose House in Crosby, Cullen Grange in Netherton and Litherland's Rimrose House.
The daughter of one resident said, "Mum is really settled at Rimrose House. All her friends are there, she is comfortable and it gives me a break as well. I was devastated when I found out Sefton council plans to close it."
THE LEEDS local government UNISON union branch saw its largest stewards' meeting for many years on Monday of last week. It voted unanimously for a ballot for branch-wide industrial action. The meeting was called in response to management's attempts to impose new sickness monitoring procedures on its workforce, dubbed a "bullies' charter" by the branch secretary.
The 86 stewards dismissed management's eleventh hour concessions as being unreliable and not going far enough. They called for an immediate ballot for a boycott of the procedures, backed up by strike action should the council seek to intimidate or threaten staff who refuse to attend sickness monitoring meetings. Many stewards volunteered to help with a campaign to build the industrial action.
About 1,000 Leeds UNISON members have already been successfully boycotting the existing sickness monitoring procedures for the last four years. This shows how management can be powerless in the face of determined collective action.
- Leeds UNISON union member
THE PRIVATE company that runs chunks of council services in Sheffield, CSL, is driving through 65 redundancies. So far 11 people have been made compulsorily redundant. Sackings include two shop stewards who led strike action against privatisation two years ago-Annette Carey and Maggie Middleton. One in five of the staff in the housing benefits section have been sacked, despite appalling backlogs in sorting out claims.
CSL wants to float on the stock exchange. It has a terrible reputation for wrecking the services it gets its hands on, and is taking vindictive action against workers in Sheffield to try and show they can boost profits. The workers' UNISON union should be throwing its full weight against the sackings. Instead the national union refused to adjourn a disciplinary hearing against seven activists to allow one of the housing benefits stewards to attend a meeting with CSL during the sackings.
A union meeting of housing benefits staff on Wednesday of last week called for a lunchtime protest.
- Protest, Thursday 21 June, 1pm, Peace Gardens.
UNISON UNION steward Paul Quigley has won his fight against disciplinary moves by Sandwell council in the West Midlands.
The Labour-controlled council had taken action against him for sending an e-mail to UNISON members urging them not to vote for the Nazi BNP in last year's West Bromwich by-election.
Over 80 people joined a rally to support Paul before his disciplinary hearing last week. Paul told the rally, "It is disappointing when you read that the BNP has approved of what the council has done. "It's shameful that the council pretends to be concerned about anti-racist policy and then starts procedures like this." The disciplinary panel decided there would be no formal action against Paul.