Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/329/5579
Labour Council Attacks Trade Union Rights
THE MAYOR of Newham council, east London and the chair of the London employers' body Sir Robin Wales have launched a massive attack on trade unions in the borough.
Many believe this is directly linked to the Newham council trade unions' success in mobilising for the London weighting campaign last year.
Wales has told UNISON to vacate their council-owned offices by 12 January. The council have also begun the process of making the three UNISON branch officers compulsorily redundant, by putting them on the redeployment register.
All facility time for the branch officials has also been withdrawn, effectively withdrawing recognition from UNISON in all but name.
The branch officers will be on the redeployment register for a maximum of three months, after which if they have no job offers from the council they will be made redundant.
Michael Gavan, the chair of the UNISON branch said at a meeting of 40 council shop stewards that the membership's response to this attack has been magnificent. "93% of the members have voted in a ballot to back the union and we will go to a strike ballot unless the council withdraw their threat."
At the meeting it was clear that plans were well in hand to take the council on including lobbies, strike action and occupations if necessary.
This New Labour council leadership is so arrogant that at the same time they were doing this, according to Michael: "The council cabinet increased their attendance allowance from £24,000 to £32,000 a year for a maximum of two meetings a month." He went on to say that the council leaders: "Had threatened to discipline any Labour councillor who opposed the increase".
Mick, a manual workers' shop steward, told the socialist that the attack on the union can only be met with action. "If the anti-union laws delay us then we should all walk out anyway from next Monday".
A number of the shop stewards at the meeting made reference to the unofficial strikes by postal workers and Heathrow workers.
It is clear there has been a major shift in the attitude of many workers. They see unofficial action as the most effective way of defending their interests.
UNISON members around the country are watching the developments in Newham with great interest. As Mick also told me: "The issue here is the most important battle we have had for years".
In The Socialist 10 January 2004:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party workplace news