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"Low Pay No Way, Council Workers Here To Stay"
FURIOUS HULL council workers halted the Lord Mayor's parade in a protest against huge wage cuts.
Rob Rooney, Hull UNISON shop steward (personal capacity)
On 1 July, the Labour-led council imposed its job evaluation scheme on the workforce. Workers across the board - binmen, social workers, carers, planners, engineers, bridge operators, solicitors, housing staff - were shocked and more than a little annoyed to find the job they do, providing public services, devalued rather than evaluated.
Binmen are being asked to take cuts of £4,000-£8,000. One worker in the Guildhall is said to be facing a £13,000 cut! Dedicated solicitors, who choose to work in the public sector, earning a fraction of what they could earn commercially, stand to lose £6,000.
Of the three unions involved, the GMB and TGWU are balloting on whether to reject the whole scheme - there is little doubt what the result, due on 15 July, will be. Unfortunately, UNISON appears to be doing little except advise people to go through the appeals process.
Frustrated at UNISON's inaction and keen to make a protest, around a dozen members gathered in Queen Victoria Square on 10 July, waiting for the city's first citizen to appear.
On the signal, it was over the barriers and into the road, in front of Tory John Fareham's open top Mercedes sports car (Hull only has two Tory councillors but they're on first name terms with the others), unfurling banners and chanting: "Low pay no way, council workers here to stay."
We were delighted to see Labour councillors, dressed in what looked like second-hand head teacher robes and three-cornered hats, taken aback. Deputy council leader, former UNISON official and one of the architects of Job Evaluation, Daren Hale, gallantly leaped to his Tory friend's defence, saying: "Blame me." We do blame you, Daren!
The protest was over in minutes. As the police arrived, we went back into the crowd, joining those who had hung back. There had been fear and trepidation beforehand, but it was all smiles afterwards, as we talked about the confusion on the councillors' faces.
The battle now is within UNISON, as much as it is with the council. But the branch leadership, which has strong links with the Labour Party in Hull, knows it is under pressure.
In The Socialist 17 July 2004:
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