Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/741/15638
Neath Port Talbot needs fighting unions
Unison local government member, Wales
Recently I read a headline in the South Wales Evening Post - "Strike fears over council budget" - about Neath Port Talbot council.
This Labour council, in 2010, pioneered the use of '188' (redundancy risk) notices to drive through reductions in terms and conditions.
Incredibly, the local authority unions, with Unison in the lead, agreed to pay cuts that followed a pay freeze, the loss of unsocial hour allowances and the introduction of car parking charges.
As if to show there was no hard feelings, Unison provided Labour councillors with transport to the March 2011 TUC anti-cuts demo!
Wales Socialist Party members warned that unions' concession bargaining would simply mean councils coming back for more each year.
NPT council is now trying to identify a further £2 million of 'savings' from the staffing budget in redundancies (although the authority claims not compulsory) and further attacks on conditions. This is alongside cuts in services and increased council tax.
Union members have already seen a drastic 13% real-terms decline in take-home pay in recent years.
So what of the headline? Have Unison leaders finally learned that weakness in the face of aggression just invites more attacks?
Sadly no. While admitting that angry union members might want strike action, the union branch chair said that "the union accepted Neath Port Talbot had to make the savings because of the austerity measures filtering down from the UK government".
Unison local government members need a fighting leadership in the union as well as councillors who will fight the Con-Dems.
We should be linking with service users angry at cut services and supporting candidates committed to fighting all cuts, like the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
In The Socialist 7 November 2012: