Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/191/8089
Hackney Solid strike against cuts threat
IN HACKNEY'S biggest strike movement in 20 years thousands of Hackney council workers staged a three-day strike this week in their battle to save jobs and services.
Council workers have been fighting a determined campaign since last October when council officers issued a Section 114 notice to avoid bankruptcy. A council meeting on 6 November agreed management's proposals involving service cuts, job losses and drastic changes to terms and conditions.
A successful day of action that day, followed by solid strike action on 20 December, showed management that council workers weren't prepared to pay for this crisis. The problems were created by years of cuts in government grants and compounded by senior officers' incompetence and mismanagement.
Before the strike action, from 29-31 January, management tried to divide the workforce by refusing to allow one mass meeting of all the unions. A successful all-union mass meeting before Christmas had galvanised support for the 20 December strike.
Managing Director Max Caller allowed separate mass meetings of individual unions on 24 January, but only because he believed some sections of workers would vote against further strike action.
Caller told his staff he was going to the meeting to "bash the unions" but he badly miscalculated. All four meetings voted unanimously to strike. Caller was booed at the mass meetings and incensed workers when he told them that while he'd be with the council for years to come, they might not!
The workers' mood has hardened since Christmas. The council plan to issue 90-day notices on 1 February. Unless they're stopped, from 4 May a low-paid council worker currently taking home just £969 a month, (including shift premium and low pay supplement) will have their pay cut by £204 a month, about £50 a week.
Workers will also receive no annual pay increases for several years until the so-called 'protection' element in their pay has been eliminated.
This campaign's at a crucial stage. 'Single Status' and 'Best Value' are being implemented in Hackney with devastating effects on services, jobs and pay and conditions. Hackney council workers are defending public services against New Labour's market madness.
A lot is at stake. Council workers will need to ensure that no agreements are made without reference to mass meetings of the council workforce. If management don't back down further strike action, backed by the community, will be necessary.
In The Socialist 2 February 2001: