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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 November 2006

Surrey UNISON

Fighting and striking, on all fronts

UNISON MEMBERS working for Surrey County Council (SCC) are striking on 30 November, over pay. This involves around 4,000 workers.

Earlier this year, SCC imposed drastic cuts, redundancies and relocations through their 'Business Delivery Review'. Thousands of Surrey workers were still reeling from this when they were told they would not be getting a backdated pay rise this year, but they would receive a 4% rise in September, over 18 months.

UNISON's claim was for 4% or 500 (whichever is the greater) backdated to April and only covering 06/07. The UNISON branch committee and our members campaigned hard for a successful strike ballot over the demand for a backdated rise.

We got a 78% yes vote (out of over 1,000 voting), we set the date for action and were ready to strike. SCC then held an emergency council meeting which agreed to backdate any award to April and to return to a yearly pay rise.

Soon after their dramatic climb-down, SCC announced they would be imposing a 2% rise for this year and 2% for next, paying this year's increase on 30 November. Once again, our members showed their confidence in the union branch. 74% voted to strike.

We have organised pickets at all the major offices and schools in Surrey. Coaches have been booked from many workplaces to get to a rally at County Hall in Kingston.

We have also been involved in a long-running dispute with SCC over the short staffing amongst our Approved Social Workers (ASWs) and the ridiculous anti-social hours they have been working (without pay!).

We have almost 100% UNISON membership amongst the ASWs and they agreed to be balloted over industrial action. 100% voted for an overtime ban and 85% voted for strike action. The overtime ban began on 27 November and the ASWs are striking with us on 30 November.

The overtime ban will continue until the dispute is settled. Further strikes will be called if necessary.

Both these disputes show how angry the workers of Surrey feel over the way they have been treated by this cost-cutting, business-orientated, Tory council.

Messages of support for the ASWs and for the strike over Surrey pay should be sent to UNISON, County Hall, Penrhyn Road, Kingston, Surrey, KT1 2DN. Call 020 8541 9091 for more information or visit our website www.scunison.squarespace.com.

Paul Couchman, Surrey County UNISON Adult Services convenor, personal capacity

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