Bromley council workers show how to fight Tories

Bromley council workers: Showing how to fight the Tories

A Bromley Unite member

Unite members working at Bromley council have begun a fight to defend public services from privatisation, oppose cuts to pay and conditions and defend the right of workers to be organised in a trade union.

The Tory-led council has begun a mass privatisation programme. The aim is to become a “commissioning” council, so it will no longer directly provide services (apart from where it has a statutory obligation) and will instead manage contracts. The effect is the end of local authorities as we know them.

Local authority privatisation has led to a race to the bottom for workers’ pay and conditions. This is still the case when services are handed over to so-called charities or social enterprises. Last year, Unite members at homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway took sustained strike action to defend pay and conditions.

Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) is a ‘not-for-profit’ social enterprise which took over the running of libraries from Greenwich Council. It wasted no time in cutting staff and using zero-hour contracts. Again, strike action from Unite members won a victory with GLL agreeing to fill all vacant posts with permanent staff and reduce zero-hour contracts. These two victories are important.

Bromley is another council putting forward not-for-profit companies and charities as a soft option or ‘privatisation lite’. The reality for staff and service users however is the same result – cuts to pay and a poorer service.


A big focus of the campaign in Bromley has been the attack on the library service. The council’s consultation gave only two options: privatisation or volunteering.

In response, Bromley Unite took to the streets and undertook its own consultation, including the option of public services with public service staff. We explained that we have no problem in principle with volunteers – what we oppose is volunteers replacing the jobs of paid, professional staff. The result was massive backing for the Unite campaign to reject volunteering and privatisation.

It is no coincidence that the council is also withdrawing all facility time arrangements from the Unite and Unison union branch secretaries. The council is proposing cuts to car allowances.

It was against this background that Unite members voted by a majority of 86% to take strike action. The union called out specific groups on strike on 7-8 April – including libraries, adult services, passenger transport and parks. The response was incredible.

Strike days

The employer accepted defeat on the strike days by closing services. The mood on picket lines was one of great confidence.

Bromley Unite is now preparing for further strike action – the stewards will be meeting in the next few days and make an announcement about further dates for strike action. Bromley Unison has also requested a ballot from the union leadership.

But Unite members in Bromley also pointed out again and again on the picket line: what we need is a united, coordinated fightback, with strike action led by the trade unions at a national level against austerity and privatisation.

Please send donations to the strike fund. Send cheques (payable to Bromley Unite) to Kathy Smith, Unite Office, Bromley Council, Civic Centre, Stockwell close, Bromley BR1 3UH