Socialist Worker

Support needed in crucial strike

by Michael Lavalette Respect councillor in Preston
Issue No. 1932

SOCIAL WORKERS from Liverpool’s children and families team are set to start their fifth month on strike on Christmas Day. The action by 140 members of the Unison union is one of the longest all-out strikes in the last decade.

Support from other trade unionists is now vital for them to continue their battle against management’s attempts to undermine the service.

The strike is over three attacks by the Lib Dem run authority.

lThey are trying to employ untrained social work staff to undertake key evaluations.

lThey are determined to divert resources into “one-stop” call centres. At the Liverpool direct call centre, already up and running, it is not unusual to be put on hold for up to 30 minutes.

lThey are attacking the union across the council. There is much talk across Liverpool that the council would like to derecognise the Unison union. Bosses see victory over the social workers as an important part in the derecognition process.

One social work union steward whose section is not yet on strike explained, “This strike is about the clash of two different value systems.

“On the one hand the business drives and values of management and Blairism—even in the guise of a Lib Dem council—and on the other the values of humanity and social justice of the childcare social workers.

“If ever there was a strike that reflected the values of the anti-capitalist movement, this is it.”

The importance of the strike has not been lost on other Unison members in the city. At a branch meeting two weeks ago over 500 workers voted to support the strikers and demanded a ballot for all out strike action in support of the social workers.


Norman Smith, senior steward for the striking workers, said, “We are still solid and the vote of the branch was unanimous in its support for us. The national industrial action committee is also very supportive. We are still very confident that we can win.”

Members of the GMB involved in childcare, currently working to rule, may also be reballoted over joining the strike, especially if union members are disciplined for refusing to take on extra work.

In another sign of growing support Liverpool City Council Labour group invited one of the strikers to address the council on Wednesday of last week.

The councillors submitted a motion critical of the council’s handling of the dispute and its attack on service provision.

Ludicrously the Lib Dems amended the motion to praise the management’s stance and their own role in the dispute.

The strikers are also getting significant support from across Britain. In recent weeks they have been to Glasgow, Preston, Manchester, Newcastle, London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Wolverhampton.

They have spoken to Unison branches and met trade unionists from other unions. The moral and financial support they have received has been important in the run-up to Christmas.

Norman Smith says, “The financial support we have received has been great. The council wants to starve us back to work, but the support of trade unionists and supporters across the country means that isn’t going to happen.

“It’s difficult to be out on strike at Christmas—we have families, and homes to run. But we are determined to keep going. We will send speakers wherever we are invited.

“This strike is so important. If we win it will be a huge victory for social workers and service users everywhere.”

Send donations to Liverpool Unison, Cotton Exchange Building, Bixteth Street, Liverpool L3 9JR

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Article information

Sat 18 Dec 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1932
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