Members of the Unison union in Sefton council on Merseyside were set to start an escalating programme of selective industrial action on Wednesday of this week.
This action is part of their long running campaign against the victimisation of leading union activists.
Some 17 workers in the creditors division will walk out indefinitely on Wednesday, Glen Williams, branch chair of Sefton Unison, told Socialist Worker. Each week a new section of workers will be added to the strike.
The creditors process all payments going out of the council to private contractors. The union is keeping details of future groups to be brought out under wraps, adds Glen, in order to prevent the council from making contingency plans.
Strikers will receive their normal take home pay, paid for by a levy of Sefton Unison members, with contributions from other branches and the national union.
Strikers will meet every Friday to discuss their action and plan tactics, adds Glen.
The dispute revolves around the suspension of Nigel Flanagan and Paul Summers, two full time Unison activists, on bogus charges of intimidation. The two were suspended in May after attending a Defend Council Housing (DCH) demonstration.
Sefton council spent over £5 million on “One Vision”, a scheme to transfer its council housing into private hands. These plans were rejected by tenants in a ballot in August after a campaign organised by DCH and Unison.
The latest programme of action follows a 24-hour all out strike on 9 August and a 48?hour all out strike on 31 August and 1 September. Both strikes were solidly supported.
Following the strikes, four council workers involved with DCH had their suspensions lifted. But the charges against Nigel and Paul remain. Workers believe the council is determined to sack Nigel Flanagan at a hearing scheduled for 17 October.
Unless the council rapidly backs down and reinstates the two activists, the action must be stepped up, drawing in far greater numbers of council workers.
The council says that it has been left “financially crippled” by the rejection of its housing plans, and is now making spurious claims that the anti-transfer campaign “bribed” tenants into voting no.
The council is also facing financial pressure from the rest of the union movement, which is boycotting its Southport conference venue in protest at the council’s actions.
The FBU, NUJ and Prison Officers Association have all cancelled conferences planned for the venue.
Send messages of support and financial contributions to Sefton Unison, Mersey Seaman’s Mission, Colonsay House, 20 Crosby Road South, Liverpool L22 1RQ. Phone 0151 928 9911.