NEWHAM COUNCIL workers in the Unison union have overwhelmingly backed a call to launch a strike ballot to defend their union.
The New Labour council in east London is threatening to evict the Newham Unison branch from its offices next Monday. It is also threatening to order the three elected full time branch officers to go back to normal work-moves which are a massive assault on the union branch.
In a consultative ballot of Newham Unison members just before Christmas 93.1 percent of those who voted backed a call for a strike to defend their union.
"This is a fantastic result," Newham Unison branch secretary Michael Gavan told Socialist Worker this week. "Now we have asked our union regional officers to start an official ballot on strike action involving all Newham Unison members immediately. We have a meeting with the regional officers this week so we are hoping for a swift and a positive response from them."
The council is headed by New Labour mayor Sir Robin Wales, who is also chair of the London council employers' body at the heart of the long-running fight over the London weighting allowance paid to council workers.
Newham Unison members have been at the forefront of that battle. The branch has had more members involved in the selective strikes which have run over recent months as part of the London weighting fight than any other Unison branch in the capital.
The council's move against the union branch is a clear attempt to punish it for that action. If Newham council gets away with its attack it would be a green light to other councils in London to try the same.
That is why it is urgent that the regional and national union throw its full weight behind the Newham branch.
That means launching an immediate official strike ballot, regional and national leaders coming to Newham to campaign for a yes vote, and urging practical solidarity from other Unison members.
It also means the union at the highest level making clear it will not tolerate the council implementing its threat to evict the union from its offices , and that it will back action to prevent that happening.
As Socialist Worker went to press a meeting of Unison shop stewards was due to take place to discuss the next moves in the battle, including how to respond if the council moves to carry out its threat.
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