WESTMINSTER council workers began an all-out strike on Monday against a major privatisation plan by their Tory council. The strike in the London council began with 77 workers in the Parking and Highways Licensing Departments striking and staging lively pickets. At least three people joined the Unison union on the picket lines in order to take part in the strike.
From next Wednesday 100 more workers in the planning, building control and commercial waste sections are due to be brought out on strike. The fight centres on a plan by the Tory council to implement a rolling privatisation plan.
Already around 25 percent of council services in Westminster are privatised, and run by around 35 different private contractors. But, when complete, the new plan will see up to 80 percent of council services privatised.
The outfit set to take over the services is a consortium called SW1, which involves major firms such as Vertex, Ernst & Young and Cap Gemini. They and the council plan to use their base in Westminster to bid for contracts in other councils. So the outcome of the Westminster battle is vital for all council workers facing threats of privatisation. Delegations of strikers are set to visit workers in other councils to win solidarity for this vital fight.
Contact us and let us know when we can send people to tour workplaces in your area. With effective solidarity we can beat this Tory council and make it easier for all those facing similar privatisation offensives.
RAHUL PATEL, assistant branch secretary Westminster Unison (personal capacity)
Send messages of support, donations and requests for speakers to Westminster Unison- phone 020 7641 2389 or 07956 579 466.
National pay dispute: next national strike planned for 14 August
UNION LEADERS have called more national strikes of council workers after last week's strike. The Unison, GMB and TGWU unions have named Wednesday 14 August as the day for a second national strike involving up to 1.3 million council workers. They have said a third one-day national strike could follow in September. The unions have also agreed that selected groups of workers could be brought out around the country after the 14 August strike.
Union leaders were to meet with the national council employers' organisation this week at the ACAS official conciliation service. Council employers had been refusing to discuss making an offer of more than a 3 percent rise before last week's strike. But the scale of the strike has shaken them. New Labour, which controls the council employers, has also been rattled by the defeat of its favoured union leader Ken Jackson in the Amicus leadership election.
Council employers have now indicated that they may make an improved offer, but it is likely to be one with a sting in the tail. There have been strong hints that any new offer may be part of a two or three year pay deal, and that this year's element would still be well short of the unions' claim. It would be a quite unnecessary concession to accept anything less than the full 6 percent claim this year.
And it would be equally wrong to allow the employers to tie workers into a two or three-year deal. Activists and branches in all three council unions need to begin preparing now so that the 14 August strike is even better than last week's action. That means building on the spirit and unity shown last week. In every area there should be action committees open to activists of all three unions.
These need to draw in not just branch officers and existing stewards but also the wider layer of new activists thrown up by last week's strike.