Socialist Worker

Homelessness caseworkers challenge council bosses with ‘the empty chair’

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2449

Unison union members lobbied Glasgow City Council last week

Unison union members lobbied Glasgow City Council last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)

As Glasgow’s homelessness caseworkers enter the third week of their indefinite strike over pay grading, solidarity is growing and they are having an impact.

Bosses have tried to talk down the job, saying workers only find accommodation for people. 

But their role includes much more, and Unison union rep Stuart told Socialist Worker that’s part of what they are defending.

“Those clients who require more specialist support are not having this identified and accessed for them,” he said. “Austerity has decimated the service. Over 20 percent of the jobs have gone and aren’t being replaced.

“We’ve been under so much pressure people are often off sick with work-related stress. So this strike is not just about pay but defending a service.”

Senior managers have been drafted in to ride out the strike. But workers question if the council is properly meeting its statutory duty to house anyone it has reason to believe may be homeless. 


Picket lines are solid and all 70 Unison members are actively involved in the strike. Other workers not involved in the dispute have raised a collective grievance against managers pressuring them to cover the strikers’ work.

The workers demand parity with 400 social care workers, who are paid up to £5,000 more to do a similar job.

Strikers are taking control of their dispute and getting creative with their action. They took a negotiating table to the employers last week as they lobbied the city council, with empty chairs for the bosses and councillors.

Bosses claim they have been given a hearing “on three separate occasions” already. But the strikers’ blog points out two of these were with a human resources officer and director who “have no direct or working knowledge of how the service operates on the ground”.

The third was to a committee of councillors would soon afterwards vote through almost £30 million in cuts to services.

Regular street stalls are now getting their message out to build more solidarity. Strikers travel to Liverpool and London this week to speak to trade union branches. 

Council bosses hope the strike will fade but solidarity can keep a determined group of strikers out for as long as it takes to win.

Support the homelessness caseworkers in Glasgow
  • Go to Glasgow Homeless Caseworkers Strike on Facebook
  • Send strike fund donations to Glasgow City Unison, 84 Bell St, Glasgow, G1 1LQ
  • To request a Glasgow striker to speak at your meeting and to send them messages of support write to

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