Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/793/17936
Hampshire Unison success shows potential for fightback
With ongoing attacks on jobs, pay and conditions in local government, two recent battles in Hampshire County Council show what is possible when a branch and its members are prepared to fight. A branch steward explains:
Last year when the council announced a full review of Trading Standards, what they really meant was cuts.
They said 'anything was on the table'. We said we were open to discussion but our branch position was opposed to any job cuts, pay cuts or worsening in terms and conditions.
We laid our cards on the table and entered negotiations.
Months later the council announced their review meant compulsory redundancies and a review of terms and conditions that meant an attack on pay grades and job roles.
At that point we walked out of the meeting making it clear there was nothing to discuss. We informed the council we were in dispute over their proposals and would consult our members.
We have among the highest member density in the council at Trading Standards and in an indicative ballot over 80% voted to take action.
A couple of days after the ballot result everything suddenly changed. All compulsory redundancies were removed as well as attacks on terms and conditions.
It shows what a branch can do when members are willing to take action and get the support of their officers.
Elsewhere in the council, members revealed that a private company Apex Care, contracted to the council, were paying staff less than £3.50 an hour.
Unison estimates over 200,000 care workers are paid below the minimum wage. They do this by only paying staff for work with clients, not for the travelling time between jobs.
Unison members were willing to expose this scrooge employer and the branch challenged the council.
The Unison press release stated: "This company is funded by Hampshire taxpayers. Apex's refusal to pay their staff no less than the national minimum wage and Hampshire County Council's failure to ensure Apex abides by the law is disgraceful."
As a result of the campaign the council has been forced to suspend the contract to Apex and concede that care providers would have to ensure they met the legal minimum wage.
Across the country Unison members are under the cosh, facing wave after wave of attacks.
These battles at Hampshire show what would be possible if a united campaign was built nationally and linked to coordinating action with other unions. That is what our branch is calling on the national leadership to deliver.
In The Socialist 8 January 2014:
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