Newham workers fighting back
"EVERYBODY OUT!" That was the headline on the local paper in Newham (above) last week, as a flurry of disputes hit the east London borough. "Chaos looms borough-wide as teachers, road sweepers, and other cleansing staff and care workers take part in-or plan-industrial action," began the front page story in the Newham Recorder.
Around 200 manual workers in the Labour council's cleansing department struck last Monday and marched on the town hall. The action followed a meeting and sit-in at a depot the Friday before. The workers are furious at council plans to change their hours. The mainly male manual workers have traditionally started at 7am.
Now the council wants them to start at 9am and finish much later. The change will wreck child collection and care arrangements for many. Meanwhile teachers have started their "no-cover" action, refusing to cover for vacant posts and sickness absences.
Social workers in Newham council are on the verge of voting on a series of one-day strikes over the council's plans to deny a �1,000 supplement to over 140 of the 160 social workers.
UNISON UNION members in Hackney, east London, could be set to escalate their strike action against the council's cuts and attacks on wages and conditions. A stewards' meeting last week angrily rejected the latest proposals from the Labour-Tory coalition which runs the council. "What's on offer is a shitty deal, longer hours, shorter holidays and wage cuts," says John Page, the UNISON branch secretary.
"Now we have to discuss our response, and we cannot simply repeat the level of action that has already happened." UNISON members struck for a day in December, for three days in January, and for a day earlier this month.
UNISON had planned another stewards' meeting this week, section meetings next week and a mass meeting in the first week of April. There is a strong feeling for a five-day strike.
Resistance is also growing in the community. One focus at the moment is the threatened closure of the Huddleston Centre for disabled children and young people. The centre was to host a meeting of the anti-cuts group Fightback this week.
WIGAN council workers' fight against attacks on working conditions and an effective 2 percent pay cut has taken a serious blow. Regional officials of the workers' UNISON union have refused to allow action despite a 54 percent ballot vote backing strikes. A final decision on whether action will go ahead is now to be taken by the union's national leadership. Dave Lowe, senior UNISON shop steward and Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate for Wigan, said, "The members of Wigan UNISON are extremely angry. "The officials risk squandering all the anger and enthusiasm for action which was clearly visible at the recent mass meeting of 1,100 members and the 300-strong lobby of Wigan council."
JOHN OWEN and Andy Gibson, standing together on a socialist ticket, have won the recent election for joint branch secretaries of Derbyshire County Unison. The victory comes as UNISON members in Derbyshire are gearing up for a fight over management's attempts to impose a new absence policy on council employees. Under the proposed policy employees would have to attend a return to work interview after one day of sickness absence.