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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 August 2009

Industrial action works

Unison members in Glasgow council's social work services who are clerical officers and admin assistants have accepted offers to resolve two disputes. The members threatened industrial action after successful ballots and this has won significant concessions from the council.

Brian Smith, branch secretary, Glasgow Unison

The first dispute has led to 500 frontline workers winning a 'working context and demand payment' of 520 per year, backdated from April 2009. This was after the council accepted both the principle and the trade union's definition of "frontline service user contact". The payment is awarded to council workers where their jobs require higher than normal physical effort or involve uncomfortable working conditions or have potentially higher health and safety risks or involve working with people who are distressed and vulnerable.

There was a good debate at the first mass meeting in late June over whether the members should strike for further backdated money. However a clear majority voted to negotiate with the council around the definition rather than pursue action. At the second mass meeting on 28 July, after the council had agreed to the trade union's definition, the members voted 9-1 to accept the offer.

The second dispute has led to the removal of supervisory duties from admin assistants. The council's 'single status' job evaluation scheme does not reward admin assistants for such duties. This group of members therefore threatened industrial action.

The council will now create more admin officer posts and reduce the number of admin assistant posts. This will allow the supervisory duties to be removed from admin assistants and also offers the opportunity for around 24 of them to secure a higher graded post.

There are issues around the proposed changes that still need to be negotiated and the Unison branch will ensure that members are consulted over how the new posts are rolled out.

Both disputes show once again that where members are willing to take industrial action, the employer can be forced to improve wages and conditions.

There have been five other industrial disputes in Glasgow's social work services over single status in the last two years, involving over 2,000 Unison members.

Three of the disputes involved indefinite strike action, one the threat of such action and the last saw residential care workers banning overtime.

All have led to improvements in the council's original offers, with all members winning wage increases, some very significant.

Industrial action works. Unison's national leaders need to learn that lesson if the battles ahead are to be won.

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In The Socialist 12 August 2009:

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