Socialist Worker

Tower Hamlets workers are right to strike - and they need your solidarity

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2713

Tower Hamlets workers are fighting a Labour councils attacks

Tower Hamlets workers are fighting a Labour council's attacks (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Council workers in east London are preparing for three days of strikes against a bullying management determined to undermine their terms and conditions.

Some 1,500 Unison union members in Tower Hamlets were due to walk out from Wednesday of this week.

They face a raft of attacks pushed by the Labour council.

The Tower Rewards programme attacks workers’ severance pay, disciplinary procedures, travel allowances, pay scales and flexi time scheme. Sweeping changes will affect workers in social care, housing support, libraries, youth services, drug and alcohol services and street cleaners.

And the council, led by mayor John Biggs, has resorted to forcefully imposing the new deal on workers by sacking and re-employing them.

Tower Hamlets Unison said, “You can’t clap for key workers then slap them in the face.

“You can’t say Black Lives Matter, then take money out of their back pocket.” Many council workers have played an essential role in keeping services operating during the pandemic.

Opportunity

Yet the council is using the virus crisis as an opportunity to force through Tower Rewards.

Unison and NEU union members were due to walk out in April over the plans, but pushed the strikes back because of the pandemic.

Some three months later, workers remain resolved to stop Tower Rewards.

The first three-day strike from 3 July saw big picket lines across the borough, and hundreds more join an online strike rally.

So far a combination of Tory anti-trade union laws and complacency from the top of the unions means not all workers affected are strike-ready.

Tower Rewards is set to hit some 4,000 workers—and those not on strike should join the action.

Strikers will need support from the wider trade union movement to win this important dispute.

Workers are asking for support on their socially-distanced picket lines. Details can be found at bit.ly/TowerSolidarity

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