AROUND 140 council manual workers, members of the TGWU and GMB unions, met on Wednesday of last week in central Manchester to discuss resistance to the imposition of new contracts by Manchester City Council. Hundreds of cleaners and 'street scene' workers face new duties and the loss of weekend working pay enhancements.
Personnel boss Jon Redfern boasts he will 'play the numbers game' to wear down resistance. TGWU and GMB branch leaders sent out a clear message to their members at the mass meeting - don't sign the new contracts, refuse the new duties. TGWU members have voted seven to one in an indicative ballot for industrial action. One GMB member said, 'The unions would be finished if we don't make a stand on this - members are furious.'
The new contracts follow recent talks on implementing a deal that means all staff would eventually be on the same terms of pay and conditions. Unison union members recently voted 1,150 to 220 to accept an interim package which promised a phased reduction of the working week.
But the smaller unions opposed the deal because there are serious worries about loss of pay protection for redeployed staff, as well as about the attacks on manual workers. A number of cleaners under attack are members of Unison.
TGWU and GMB leaders must campaign for action to defend the first members who receive and refuse the new contracts. Unison activists have started to raise support and solidarity amongst white-collar workers.