Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/379/4272
Coventry 'single status' battle
Action now to stop the pay cuts!
"YOU'RE TAKING my mortgage off me" shouted one bin worker at a Tory councillor before the last Coventry council meeting.
Coventry council workers in the Socialist Party
Trade unionists - mainly from the TGWU, had turned up to lobby the council about the mostly unchanged single status deal that will rob many staff of between £1,700 and £8,000 a year.
The council's chief executive proudly announced that the number of losers had been reduced from 2,091 to 1,500! But one loser is too many.
The top officers have conveniently exempted themselves. We would love to see how they would react to a 10 or 15% pay cut.
Now, emboldened by the fact that North East Lincolnshire council is giving staff "sign or you are sacked" contracts, the council may try a different way of imposing the deal after unions, quite correctly, refused to ballot on their new proposal.
The unions must refute this threat. As well as threatening legal action against any move, they should now be preparing the workforce for industrial action. The council know that an ultimatum could create an angry mood for action. If the council unions do not now mobilise for this, there is a risk of being derailed into protracted legal battles rather than the plans being unceremoniously thrown out.
Socialist Party members warned of the danger of the unions getting in too deep, by negotiating a deal that is fundamentally rotten. Now they must act quickly.
Council drivers circulated the city late on 31 January, delivering documents about the new Single Status proposals to the home of every councillor, giving the bare seven days notice for an extraordinary council meeting on 8 February.
At the meeting the council's Tory leaders will seek to impose essentially the same new pay structure that was rejected by employees in a ballot last October by a majority of two to one. If councillors vote to impose the plan, Coventry would become the largest council in the country to force its employees to take pay cuts.
Hundreds of angry council workers are expected to lobby the meeting on 8 February.
Socialist councillor Dave Nellist told the socialist: "The papers which councillors have now received estimate that 3,500 council workers should receive pay rises to give them the proper rate for the job, and I agree that should be done as soon as possible. But not by cuts of up to £10,000 a year in the wages of 1,500 of their colleagues.
"The papers estimate for example that 62 workers need a pay rise of over £5,000 a year - and propose that should be provided for by 56 workers taking a pay cut of over £5,000 a year. That is morally bankrupt.
"I expect a huge lobby of the council next Tuesday. And if councillors vote for this reprehensible package I expect the three trade unions, UNISON, TGWU and GMB, will be calling for industrial action. If they do, Socialist councillors and Socialist Party members will support the workforce 100%."
In The Socialist 5 February 2005: