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3 December 2014

Hull city council: a tale of two surveys

Mike Whale, Chair, Hull city council trade unions

Hull City Council senior officers have provocatively sent out a staff survey clearly designed to give them authority to slash council workers' terms and conditions.

Under the industrial relations framework, officers should have properly consulted with the trade unions about issuing the survey. Instead they sent an email out to union convenors an hour before the document was circulated to staff.

The first question gives workers the choice between losing their job completely or losing some terms and conditions. Most workers, given that choice, will opt for a job.

The council unions responded immediately by urging members not to complete the officers' survey and instead complete a trade union one which includes the 'option' of fighting against any cut to terms and conditions.

The unions' alternative survey has touched a raw nerve with some senior officers. A Unison full time organiser has received a letter threatening a disciplinary investigation against Adrian Kennett, Unison branch secretary and joint council union secretary, for circulating the survey.

This threat follows management's attempt to hear two grievances taken out against Adrian relating to the 10 July public sector pay strike. The letter goes on to threaten any steward promoting the union survey with disciplinary action.

All of the unions understand this is not just an attack on Adrian but on the council unions as a whole. The officers are still smarting because, throughout the period of austerity, they have not been able to smash council workers' terms and conditions due to our determination. In the past, the workforce has responded magnificently when balloted to take action.

Unions' resolve

The council officers and some of the Labour cabinet understand that breaking the resolve of the unions is central to implementing savage cuts and privatisation.

That is why they are attacking Adrian Kennett and threatening stewards. They want tame 'company' unions to work with management to implement the cuts.

A very successful lobby of East Hull Labour Party took place on Saturday 29 November. According to reports from within the meeting, most Labour Party members, including some councillors, were appalled at the proposed cuts and supportive of the trade unions.

The council trade unions will be rolling out a programme of lobbies of councillors and meetings in the next few months.

The real alternative for council workers and councillors who really want to fight the cuts is to launch a campaign involving service users and all parts of the community.

Councillors should refuse to implement any cuts, using reserves and borrowing powers for any immediate shortfall while demanding the needed funding from central government.

A determined struggle from a united city could force concessions, stop the cuts and protect jobs and services.

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