Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/672/12101
An offer we must refuse
Local government workers across Britain are facing attacks on their jobs, pay and terms and conditions as part of the Con-Demolition of public services. Labour-led councils have agreed to do the government's dirty work by implementing cuts. Instead, councillors should stand up against cuts by setting 'needs' budgets and demand the required money from central government. The money is there - £120 billion in tax goes unpaid by the rich every year, more than the £81 billion in total the government wants to cut.
But the opposition to these cuts is growing. A local government worker in Waltham Forest, north east London, shows how workers are fighting back.
On 3 May all local government workers in Waltham Forest were issued with a "Terms and Conditions Review". The document states that the council intends to cut £3 million from our wages and informed us of its intended 'options':
- No pay for the first three days off sick or reduce occupational sick pay from 100% of salary to 80% of salary for all sickness absence
- Reduce sick pay entitlement to a maximum of three months full pay and three months half pay
- Reduce the gross salary for all staff by 2%
- Reduce the gross salary of all staff by one incremental point
- Cease all standby payments - standby duties to be treated as a contractual requirement of the role
- Cease all weekend enhancement
The council proposes to opt out of the National Agreement on Pay and Condition of Service, thereby potentially initiating local pay agreements.
The document is peppered with words such as "consultation" and "inclusion", yet it opens by telling the entire workforce that we have been put on notice of dismissal! We have from 6 September to 4 October to accept or on 7 October, like a scene from The Godfather film, we are going to be given 'an offer we can't refuse', ie dismissed and re-employed on a new 'ready to privatise' contract.
The document states that the cuts package was approved by the council on 8 March. We know because we were there lobbying councillors.
The council has put us through nine council phases of cuts in the last 18 months. Waltham Forest Unison's branch committee has initiated a campaign through the branch to get people to a general meeting on 1 June to discuss industrial action.
At the recent anti-cuts meeting in Waltham Forest everyone agreed to build support for our Unison meeting. This can help gain support from the local community for industrial action to defend our services.
We have agreed to do joint activity with civil servants in the PCS union, teachers in the NUT and UCU lecturers for their pensions strike on 30 June. Joint union strike action is the logical step after the 500,000-strong TUC anti-cuts demo on 26 March.
Workers everywhere should be encouraged to do something on 30 June, whether participating in centrally organised demos or lunch-time protests.
In The Socialist 25 May 2011:
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