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Leeds Unison urges members to reject council's final offer
A Leeds Unison member
Unison members in Wales protest against privatisation, photo Socialist Party Wales
At present all Unison members in Leeds City Council are being balloted on the council's final proposal for cuts. The unions first balloted in February, with the Joint TUC rejecting the offer but continuing to negotiate.
After the employer made slight concessions on what activists describe as a poor deal, the unions are now being asked to consult their members on the 'final' proposals, with no alternative on offer.
This situation in Leeds Unison has arisen not only because the council has refused to make further concessions on parts of the offer but as well because the GMB, also with a large membership, had already begun to ballot its members.
What is significant however, is the changing mood amongst the activists. Prior to this development, at an all-stewards meeting last month, the Unison leadership spent most of its time undermining the mood for strike action.
Despite this, activists voted against doing nothing, with speaker after speaker describing what the offer really means for their members.
Shamefully our Labour-led council has already rubber-stamped £90 million of cuts in February and is proposing a further £47 million for next year. With wages making up almost half (£442 million) of total expenditure, the council intends to cut up to 3,000 jobs over four years with around 1,000 already leaving this year through its Early Leavers Initiative.
A key sticking point for the unions has been the council's intended changes to its redeployment procedure (Managing Workforce Change). It intends to reduce the time from 12 months and three months notice, a total of 15 months currently, to nine months from July, and from April 2012 to six months.
It also wants to reduce the period of pay protection staff have in the event they lose their job and are put into a lower grade, from three years to one year.
The redeployment policy was designed to protect staff from redundancy but with these reductions the employer is able get rid of staff much more readily without commitment to 'no compulsory redundancies'.
Indeed, these proposals represent the biggest attack on jobs, pay and conditions to council employees seen in decades and the effects of these cuts are becoming painfully clear, with the threats of closure to adult mental health centres, Leeds Crisis Centre, care homes for the elderly and libraries.
With children's and adults' social services forced to contract, share services or be outsourced, closed or privatised it is the frontline services that our members proudly deliver that will suffer, which will have a detrimental impact on the population of Leeds.
Our employer has always been intent on implementing these cuts. However, it is imperative that all the unions must jointly organise and campaign for members to vote a decisive 'no' to these proposals, and in doing so build support for coordinated industrial action through protest lobbies and local demonstrations.
Only decisive action can defeat the cuts. The ballot ends on Monday 27 June.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 17 June 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.