A meeting of 600 workers involved in the long-running battle at Southampton city council has voted by 4 to 1 to reject council bosses' latest offer and continue with strike action.
The offer centred on a promised £500,000 injection from the council to slightly reduce the pay cut faced by social workers, and the raising of the cuts threshold from £17,500 to £22,000, meaning that slightly fewer lower-paid workers would face the cut.
The meeting discussed whether to suspend the current strike actions and enter detailed negotiations on this offer, or to keep the current action live and continue general negotiations. Speaking after the vote, Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “there has been a clear decision by Unison and Unite members to carry on with the strike action. Myself and all the other Branch Officials will now implement the democratic decision taken at today’s meeting.” Unite Regional Organiser Ian Woodland said: “There was a huge amount of anger expressed at the meeting towards this proposal and the mandate given by our members for further action is very clear.”
Unison will now hold members' meetings to decide which section of workers will be next to participate in the strike, as well as reviewing its levels of hardship pay.
The meeting, which was attended by a quarter of all council union members and represented a cross-section of the workforce, took resolutions and amendments about the dispute.
Whatever its outcome, the Southampton dispute has put the best of labour movement traditions — control of disputes by rank-and-file committees and mass meetings with democratic structures and real sovereign control — back on the agenda.