Socialist Worker

Victory in Glasgow - Striking homelessness caseworkers make council bosses back down

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2463

Strikers at Unison’s annual conference earlier this year

Strikers at Unison’s annual conference earlier this year (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Glasgow City Council workers have shown that if workers fight, they can win. And they have shown how we can resist and beat austerity.

The homelessness caseworkers demanded the same pay as other council social work staff in similar roles—but on up to £5,000 a year more.

Bosses have finally conceded that central demand.

The result comes 16 weeks after the Unison union members walked out on all-out strike at the end of March.

At a mass meeting on Tuesday of this week strikers voted to accept a new offer that means workers delivering the council’s homeless service would be on a higher pay grade.

It would also mean that everyone would be upgraded.

Once the deal is implemented it will represent a 4 percent pay rise straight away, rising to 20 percent after three years.

This is a huge victory for the strikers—and for the working class solidarity that has kept them going through the almost four-month indefinite strike. 

Unison union rep Stuart told Socialist Worker, “We and the Dundee porters have shown the way to take on the employers and the Tories. All-out strikes can achieve the results you set out to get—one-day strikes just won’t cut it.”

In the beginning bosses refused to recognise the responsibilities the workers have.

They claimed that the workers simply “arrange accommodation”. 

In reality they deal with vulnerable people coping with issues such as addiction, mental health problems and housing.

Council leaders spent weeks looking for ways to break the strike—but the caseworkers stayed solid.

Serious offers were only made after a leading union official threatened that funding to Glasgow Labour Party could be cut if bosses didn’t seek to settle.

If Unison can make that threat in Glasgow, it can do the same at other Labour-run councils implementing cuts.

Bosses were determined to stick with their austerity plans throughout. 

But each attempt to try and divide the workers was met with unanimous rejection.

Labour consistently sought to cut posts while conceding the regrading issue and they will return to this in the future. 

Bosses plan to insist on an assessment process for every worker to try and save face. It is understandable that strikers don’t trust them.

The union must enforce the agreement to ensure there is no unravelling or backsliding. 

The boost to workplace organisation from the strike will help collectively defend the agreement.

It will also help fend off future job or service cuts.

Throughout the dispute the caseworkers have drawn attention to how chronically under-resourced the homeless service is. 

Their fight has never just been about their own pay. 

The strain of excessive workloads due to cuts in funding and to jobs lay behind an unofficial walkout in 2013. Then workers defied the anti-union laws for three days and won. 

The caseworkers’ struggle, then and now, holds lessons for every worker who wants to resist the Tories’ onslaught.

Official or unofficial, strikes get results.


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