Socialist Worker

Back new strikes by Tower Hamlets council workers

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2717

Picketing in July

Picketing in July (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A three-day strike was set to hit Tower Hamlets council this week, with workers planning to walk out to defend terms and conditions.

Up to 1,500 workers in the east London borough planned to strike on Thursday and Friday this week and Monday next week.

The Unison union members are battling “Tower Rewards”—a new contract, imposed on 6 July, that smashes up workers’ conditions. It attacks workers’ severance pay, travel allowance, pay scales and flexitime agreements.

And it’s been viciously imposed by a Labour council led by mayor John Biggs. Unison union leader Dave Prentis wrote directly to Biggs last week demanding that he call off the attacks and sit down with reps to negotiate.

Yet John McLoughlin, Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary, told Socialist Worker that council bosses didn’t seem to be budging.

“They have used the period of the pandemic to run down the clock on us,” he said.

Workers suspended planned strikes in March because they wanted to deliver essential services during the pandemic.

A win for Tower Hamlets council workers would be a victory for us all
A win for Tower Hamlets council workers would be a victory for us all
  Read More

Because of the Tory anti‑union laws, their strike ballot runs out on 20 August. So management are using the delay as an opportunity to block further action.

John said organising a strike when many union members were working from home meant it was “hard to gauge.”

“We had a meeting last week, there were 140 people there. The people we’re in contact with are very positive.”

Strikers are planning to hold a series of workplace pickets throughout the bor‑ ough and organise a big online rally this week.

They’re also considering holding a socially-distanced protest down Whitechapel Road to the council’s new headquarters, which are due to be opened in 2022.

John said that workers’ fears about the drive to slash redundancy pay appear to be well-founded. Bosses are already making noises about job cuts.

It’s likely that Unison will re-ballot its members to give them another opportunity to take further action.

For the latest strike news go to towerhamlets.unison.site/news/

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