Glasgow Unison strike wins important victory

Philip Stott

Three days of strike action by at least 80 Glasgow City council homelessness social workers have resulted in an important victory. The Unison member whose suspension by management on 13 September sparked the walkout has been reinstated. Social work management has also agreed to draw up new caseload management proposals within four weeks. Unison stewards will have an input in drafting them.

Workload was a key factor in the dispute that led to the suspension and then a walkout by union members. By 16 September staff had walked off the job at the other four offices in Glasgow. They stayed out until 18 September when the workers went back united after hearing that the suspension was lifted and management was prepared to engage in real discussions on workload.

Glasgow City Unison has made clear that a formal ballot for action will take place unless there are real changes in workload. Striking workers told us that on average they were handling 50 cases per staff member, resulting in a deteriorating service and demoralisation.

Scandalously, on 17 September Glasgow City council, a Labour council, had threatened all the staff with dismissal unless they went back. They had also hired a QC to move for an interdict against the unofficial strike.

The fact that important concessions have been won underlines the importance of militant and decisive action by workers, even action that breaks the anti-union laws. Glasgow City Unison refused to repudiate the strike, a demand pushed by council management after threatening to make the union liable for the costs of the strike.

As one striker told us: “We’ve proved that by standing together we can force management to listen to our concerns. After a year of a formal grievance on caseloads, and frankly being ignored, we now have the management listening.”

A Unison member also thanked those that had sent the hundreds of messages of support from across the UK, Ireland, the US and even Turkey. “They were a great boost to workers and helped keep up the morale.”

See: for more on this and a report of the pro-independence demonstration in Edinburgh on 21 September