Big step towards 35 hours
UNISON UNION members in Knowsley, Merseyside, have won a victory which will inspire all council workers facing attacks. Six days of council-wide strike action over two months and a two-week strike by key groups of workers in the finance department forced the Labour-run council’s bosses to concede most of the workers’ demands.
The working week for all council workers will be harmonised at 35 hours for manual as well as white collar workers. The council wanted to raise the white collar working week to the 37 hours that manuals have worked up to now. It imposed a 37-hour week for anyone who was promoted and new starters from 1 February.
The deal it has been forced to accept now means that workers on a 35-hour week can be promoted without working more hours. All council workers on a 37-hour week will work a 36-hour week in three years, and a 35-hour week by 2008.
The weakness in the deal is that new starters will still start on 37 hours until the reduction to 36 hours in 2004. The strike could have won a total victory. UNISON nationally should be raising the demand for a 35-hour standard working week for all council workers.
A WORK to rule by over 5,000 council workers in Plymouth was continuing at the start of this week as negotiations took place. But the council still proposes to find 642,000 from the workforce by April next year, and to close two homes for older people and three libraries.
STRIKERS AT Westminster’s homeless persons unit returned to work after an indefinite strike over privatisation which began on 21 March. Union officials said they legally had to return when the service was privatised on Monday of this week. The new contractor, WMS Haywards, has refused to give the workers any guarantees over conditions. The workers’ UNISON union says a new strike ballot will go ahead unless it gets those guarantees.
THE UNISON union branch secretary at Bolton council, Bernie Gallagher, has been re-elected with a majority of 237 votes despite the fact that UNISON has expelled her from the union, pending an appeal. UNISON members in Bolton are furious with the union’s witch-hunt against leading activists. They also voted unanimously at a 200-strong meeting to send two delegates to the anti-debt protest in Genoa in July.
SOCIAL WORKERS in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, last week voted overwhelmingly to ballot for strike action in response to the council’s refusal to backdate a grading claim.
UNISON members at Telford & Wrekin council have started a work to rule against the victimisation of the branch service conditions officer, Mike Jeffries.
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