"THEY HAVE divided the unions at the level of the officials, but the rank and file are more united than ever," said Steve Jones, convenor of the building trade unions in Hackney, on Wednesday of last week.
He was speaking as thousands of workers joined a one-day stoppage against plans by the Labour-Tory coalition to force through deep cuts, slash pay and worsen conditions.
Shamefully, regional officials in the TGWU and GMB unions pulled the plug on the action at the last moment.
They said the council had temporarily withdrawn its redundancy notices to the entire workforce. But this was only because they had been issued illegally�they will be sent out again.
But the official UNISON strikers were joined by many TGWU and GMB members.
"In some ways this strike felt even better because there was a boost from the solidarity among the members," one picket told Socialist Worker.
Some groups of workers who had not joined the previous strikes�such as nursery staff�came out this time.
There was also a brief occupation of the town hall.
The effects of the council�s policies are getting clearer every day.
The Huddleston Centre, the main service provider for disabled children and young people, faces closure.
The Primrose Elderly Day Care Centre, opened just 18 months ago, is also shutting.
Cecilia Prosper, the local Socialist Alliance candidate, was well received when she visited the picket lines.
On the day of the strike the council�s Labour and Tory groups voted through more cuts and a council tax rise of nearly 10 percent.
SOME 42 refuse lorries blockaded Plymouth�s city centre last Thursday as part of an 800-strong protest rally by council unions (see picture above).
Earlier last week there was a 2,000-strong demonstration on the first one-day strike by UNISON and TGWU members against �20 million of cuts and privatisation.
Workers in the GMB, UNISON and TGWU unions started a work to rule this week to highlight the effect of 400 to 600 job losses on council services.
This struggle is part of the biggest strike action in Plymouth for over 20 years.
The local Fightback Against the Cuts campaign has won strong public support for its petition against privatisation.
Unions and campaign groups are calling for the Tory council leader to resign, and for the withdrawal of attacks on jobs and services.
The council has launched a counter-attack, asking, "Who runs the council, councillors or the trade unions?"
The budget cuts were decided in principle at last week�s council meetings, but the details of how the savings are to be made are unclear.
Joint union mass meetings were planned this week.
- Tony Staunton
Battle over hours
KNOWSLEY: UNISON members were due to take their fourth round of strike action on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The council wants to increase the working week of white collar workers from 35 to 37 hours. The strength of the action has forced management to agree to hold further talks. But they want to negotiate on the basis of the 37-hour week for new starters and anyone who is promoted.
Workers have taken six days of action as one and two day strikes spread over six weeks, with a three-week gap in the middle. Many members are asking why the action hasn�t been stepped up to at least a three day strike. Key groups of workers in the finance department are being pulled out next week for two weeks to coincide with the end of the financial year. A solidarity rally has been called for Saturday 31 March in Knowsley, with UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis speaking.
For details, and to send messages of support or donations, contact Knowsley UNISON, 70/71 Admin Buildings, Admin Road, Kirkby, Knowsley, Merseyside L33 7TX. Phone 0151 548 0148 or fax 0151 545 0563.
WIGAN: Council workers have voted for strikes against the Labour council�s attempt to make some of them work longer hours for no extra pay. Members of UNISON voted by 54 percent for strikes, which would see some 5,000 workers take action. Wigan council is cutting manual workers� hours from 39 to 37 a week as agreed under the Single Status deal. But it wants to increase white collar workers� hours from the current 36.25 to 37 a week. Some activists are arguing against any attempt by the regional UNISON officials to use the narrow vote as an excuse not to call action.
SANDWELL: Workers in the revenues, benefits and IT sections have won a victory against the Labour council, which has agreed not to privatise their jobs. UNISON members have been holding an overtime ban since the start of the year. They voted two weeks ago to continue the ban and call for a strike ballot if the council did not back down over the privatisation.
- Tony Barnsley
BOLTON: Around 100 workers, including members of the UNISON, NUT and MSF unions, joined a lobby of the council on Wednesday of last week against cuts in terms and conditions. Last month many Bolton UNISON members were given 90 days notice and told they could reapply for their jobs under new terms and conditions.
This would mean a pay cut and an increase in working hours. Councillors were unable to answer questions about the cuts, and many denied knowing that they had voted to attack our terms and conditions! Labour leader of the council Bob Howarth said the 90 days notice "cannot be withdrawn". UNISON members are balloting for strike action to make him eat those words.
- Charlotte Smith and Paul Maurins
OXFORD: Council workers held a lobby outside the council's budget setting meeting on Monday of last week. The council is run by a Liberal Democrat and Green Party alliance. Their �3.7 million cuts budget involves the loss of 30 to 40 jobs and removal of full time facilities from the two union convenors.
MANCHESTER: The council has backed away from closing Gorton Tub and Miles Platting pools. After a vigorous campaign the council has now deferred closure for another two months so it can review usage figures.
SCOTLAND: Council workers have voted to accept a deal negotiated between their union leaders and the employers. A ballot of some 80,000 members of the UNISON union saw a 46 percent turnout, and the four-year pay deal was accepted by 31,438 to 6,353 votes.
The deal sees a rise of 6.1 percent over two years, followed by an increase to match inflation and a pledge for a �500 flat rate increase, bringing all council workers above a �5 minimum. The employers were forced to offer more after three one-day strikes were followed by selective action.