Southampton council workers’ strike movement continues after talks with ACAS broke down in late June.
Tuesday 28 June will see street cleaners, parking staff, refuse collectors, librarians and others take renewed strike action in a dispute that involves over 2,000 workers — members of Unison and Unite.
Over 4,000 workers face redundancy on 11 July if they refuse to sign up to the Tory council’s new terms, which will means significant pay cuts of between two and five percent, as well as other attacks. The tactic of imposing new conditions by threatening, or actually carrying out, mass redundancies has become increasingly common since the coalition government came to power, with London firefighters along with local government workers in several authorities across the UK facing similar attacks.
As the right-wing press begins to overflow with scandalised articles about the amount of rubbish piling up on the streets, the council has moved to hire agency workers to clear the backlog of refuse that has built up due to the strikes and refuse workers’ ongoing work-to-rule. The legality of this move is questionable; it is illegal for bosses to hire agency workers to do the jobs of strikers, but a loophole in the law allows them to hire strike breakers if they are employed directly. The hypocrisy of a council which can afford to employ strikebreakers while claiming its existing employees must take pay cuts will undoubtedly anger an already bitter and resentful workforce.
A feeder march of local government workers and their supporters will join a joint PCS-NUT rally on June 30 as the council strikes intersect with the national pensions dispute.
In a labour movement where one-day protest strikes, called and controlled from above, are all too often the only weapon in a union’s arsenal, other public sector unions should learn from Southampton’s example.
• For an interview with Mike Tucker, branch secretary of Southampton District Unison, see: bit.ly/mPl3Kk