Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/10091
Kirklees strike action looms closer
Kirklees Unison has launched a formal industrial action ballot, to begin strike action in September to challenge the council's headlong rush into some of the most swingeing cuts in living memory.
Last year, the council promised to cut £250-400 million from the budget, with 2,000 job losses. It has tried to lure workers from their jobs with offers of redundancy and early retirement, with little effect. So far only a few hundred have taken up the 'offer' so the council is now cutting up rough. Endorsed by the minority Labour leadership, it is setting out to tear up just about every local agreement in the book! So far it has:
- Drawn up a hit-list of all temporary and casual staff to be targeted for redundancy
- Issued a notice of compulsory redundancy for 150 unnamed staff
- Drawn up plans to axe half of all admin staff, about 350 workers
- Drawn up another list of workers aged 64 plus who will be finished at work on their 65th birthday
- Reduced the redundancy pay for all those who leave
- Unsuccessfully tried to reduce the pension entitlement for all those who leave
- Introduced a new formula for calculating sickness absence which will be used to get rid of those who have 'too much' time off sick
This is an open declaration of war. For too long, workers have been subjected to bullying and intimidation by their managers who are using the present climate to push through worse conditions of service and pay. Already hundreds have seen their pay reduced through 'single status' without any organised fightback by Unison.
Now, after months of dragging their feet, the regional and national Unison bureaucracies are prepared to sanction an industrial action ballot which will run throughout August. If successful it will lead to a five day strike of 8,000 council workers in September.
Unison is waking up to the fact that this will be a test case for fighting back against the cuts agenda. The local branch is organising workplace meetings across the borough to encourage a big yes vote and a big turnout. Inevitably there are questions about the chances of pushing the council back and whether members can afford to strike for so long. However there is a growing realisation that we have no choice.
The union is also organising weekly public stalls to rally the public behind the action, which have been very well received, and has called a demo on 11 September in Huddersfield as a focal point for the action. Youth Fight for Jobs is mobilising for the demo, which is being supported by the TUC and other public sector unions, and is being coordinated by the local Save Our Services group.
The tide can be turned where decisive leadership is given and workers are shown we can push back the employer's offensive. It will not be easy to win the strike vote and to get everyone out, but we have no choice but to fight back. A weekly strike committee is organising the union campaign and will undoubtedly come into its own over the coming weeks. It is vital this strike is successful. Please send messages of support to: Kirklees Unison, 20 Queen Street, Huddersfield or email messages of support via the Socialist Party website.