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Striking for a fair deal

Local government disputes heat up as Unite launches new campaign
Hajera Blagg, Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

As UNITElive reported today, most of us expect our pay to stay the same this year or rise ever-so-slightly.

Drivers who transport disabled children to school for Hackney council, however, face something else entirely – an astounding 50 per cent slash in their wages as the local authority embarks on vicious cost-cutting measures.

The move has prompted Unite’s members to take strike action on Thursday (April 2) for 24 hours as the cuts could see their wages sink from an already paltry £24,000 to £12,000 – less than the annual gross salary of a full-time worker on the minimum wage.

The impending strike action was unanimously supported by members at 100 per cent in favour, and a further stoppage is scheduled for April 16.

This isn’t the only dispute involving local authority workers who face the twin evils of rampant privatisation and government austerity measures.

Another separate strike is set to take place on April 16 in Croydon, where drivers who also transfer disabled children are being attacked by the private company Impact, which runs transport services for the council.

With 92 per cent voting in favour, Unite’s passenger transport members in Croydon are striking after Impact has refused to negotiate a pay claim made by Unite which proposes the company pay all its workers at least the London Living Wage, currently set at £9.15 per hour.

Fair deal campaign

A race to the bottom in pay, terms and conditions and quality of service is an alarming trend among local governments, one that Unite aims to fight in one of its latest campaigns.

A Fair Deal for Local Government has been launched by Unite’s London and Eastern region, which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aiming to eradicate the very root of the problems plaguing local authorities by taking a stand against privatisation and austerity.

Through a set of proposals, Unite’s local government campaign outlines a procurement strategy to ensure that quality of service is maintained while staff also get the fair deal they deserve.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab explained that the campaign could not have come at a more fitting moment in time.

“Our overall campaign calls for a Fair Deal for Local Government and these two separate strikes are vivid, living, breathing examples of why our campaign is so important,” Kasab said.

Kasab noted that the impending strike actions are regrettable, especially given that they will affect disabled children.

“But,” he said, “if we don’t draw a line in the sand now, future cuts will be even worse.

“Councils should not be jumping to the Tories’ tune of privatisation and austerity – the public good should always come first.”

The main aim of Unite’s local authority campaign is just that – protecting the public good against private interests.

As part of its procurement strategy, the Fair Deal for Local Government campaign argues that if services are performing well, they should be left in-house. If they are not, local authorities should examine how they can be put right in-house.

When services must be contracted out, the main consideration – at least over 50 per cent – should be over quality rather than cost.

When staff are transferred, fair employment rights should be locked in, including paying the living wage and barring zero hours contracts, with no downward pay and conditions harmonisation.

For more information about Unite’s Fair Deal for Local Government campaign, visit the campaign’s website here, where you’ll learn exactly what’s gone wrong with local government, and what we can do – together – to change it.




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