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14 October 2009

Housing workers in 'sleep over'

More than a dozen workers at Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) staged a 12 hour 'sleep over' outside their offices on 8 October. In light of the continuing refusal of management to even negotiate, workers felt they needed to send a clear message that they would not be ignored.

BHT is a charity employed by Brighton and Hove council to advise and represent people with housing, welfare, debt and other legal problems. There are glowing reports all over the internet of the good work that BHT workers do for their clients.

As reported previously, 100 workers at BHT are facing cuts in pay of up to 25%, forced increases in working hours and a 50% cut in their pensions - a brutal attack. Any workers not accepting this will be dismissed! However, as so often, management underestimated the determination of working people to organise and fightback.

Amongst those sleeping out, morale was high, even into the eleventh hour. One worker speaking to The Socialist said: "It's important for management to listen to their staff. We are making the point that we are passionate about the services we provide and we know this attack on us will hurt our clients too. This is about defending services as much as our own pay and conditions."

Unison branch secretary Alex Knutsen explained how a day of strike action had been called off as a gesture of goodwill to open negotiations and that Unison had put forward an offer to management. This offer was thrown back in their faces by chief executive Andy Winters at the council, on the spurious grounds that he would not negotiate 'with preconditions'.

This is obvious nonsense and a further indication that management are out of touch.

The local Unison branch has endorsed the idea of all-out strike action. This is being taken to Unison's national industrial action committee for approval. We will report on the outcome of these discussions in future issues. Solidarity with the BHT workers!

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