LABOUR CONTROLLED Neath/Port Talbot council is threatening to sack its 7,000 strong workforce and re-employ them on worse terms and conditions in a brutal attempt to close a £24 million gap in its budget by 2014.
The changes would mean cuts in rates for overtime, unsociable hours and shift allowance payments. The council also wants to stop the use of council vehicles for 'home to work' travel, change car allowance mileage rates and stop some meal expenses.
The council's head of human resources said this was a situation faced by every local authority in Wales but Neath/Port Talbot was ahead of most in trying to tackle it.
It's a disgrace that a Labour-controlled council is the first in Wales to go on a vicious offensive against low-paid workers.
The message is clear to all council workers in Wales that if Neath/Port Talbot council get away with these cuts then other councils will follow them.
Unison, the trade union which represents 3,000 of the council staff, said the authority was 'negotiating with a gun to its head'.
Unfortunately, the council are pushing ahead with around 750 voluntary redundancies and have implemented chrages for council staff parking but as expected these are not enough for a Labour council determined to implement further cuts. Understandably some members are hopeful that if they give some concessions their jobs could be saved and most of their terms and conditions retained. As this threat of mass sackings have shown - No Chance!
Unison has called emergency meetings of its members this week to respond to the council's declaration of war.
If the wages, terms and conditions of council workers are to be retained there has to be an immediate strike ballot organised by the council unions in response to this provocation.
Neath/Port Talbot council workers must not be left isolated to fight a battle that will be coming to every local authority in Wales in the near future.
Local authority unions across Wales should convene an emergency conference of shop stewards and union reps to discuss a common, united strategy to defeat these attacks.
As a call of solidarity, Unison should organise an all-Wales public sector march and rally on to the Civic Centre in Port Talbot in early September.
As well as preparing for industrial action, local authority trade unions should start linking up with community campaigners, private sector unions and the general public, who will all be affected by these council cuts.
Calls must be made on the Labour/Plaid Welsh Assembly government to refuse to implement the Con-Dem cuts and stand alongside the trade unions and anti-cuts campaigners in defending the public sector in Wales.
Like the Militant-led Liverpool Labour council in the 1980s, that stood up against Thatcher's cuts, councils in Wales, along with the Welsh Assembly government, should determine what cash is needed to effectively run our services and take on the new Tory-led government to fight for it!
The only other alternative is to make council workers and those who rely on their services, the most vulnerable in society, pay the price for the bankers' crisis.