An all too familiar tale...
The sight of a Welsh Labour Council attacking the trade union members who voted and campaigned for their election is becoming the norm in Wales at the moment.
This time it is the majority Labour administration in Swansea who are trying to force through cuts under the disguise of 'job evaluation'. Last week Swansea Socialist Party reported on the increasingly threatening noises coming from leading members of the council as they poured cold water on the idea that anything could come out of further discussions with UNISON, despite the overwhelming vote by UNISON members to reject the Council's proposals.
Now the council has gone over the heads of the union and sent out a letter to all council employees telling them to move over to the new contracts voluntarily or be dismissed and re-hired on the new conditions, "..any employee who refuses to accept the new reward package will be dismissed and offered immediate re-engagement under the new terms". UNISON has correctly accused the Council of trying to bully union members and issued advice not to sign the new contracts, while they seek advice and consult.
Among the workers who stand to lose out from the cuts to allowances, bonuses, etc., are 2,000 plus workers who will have their retainers removed, effectively reducing the number of weeks a year they get paid for. For many, this will cancel out anything they would gain from the Council agreeing to pay the living wage this year (which doesn't however include a commitment to become a recognised living wage employer). It has been estimated by the union that nursery nurses could lose 10% of their income.
UNISON has organised a demonstration outside the Civic Centre, where the Council meets, next Tuesday (27th August) at 4pm. It is important that everybody who uses Council services understands that it is impossible to make cuts to the terms and conditions of council workers without destroying morale and having a detrimental effect on the quality of service our members provide. In any case, these are just a taste of the cuts in services to come, now that the Labour Council has shown it is just as willing to carry out Con-Dem cuts as the previous Lib Dem-led coalition and just as ruthless in their implementation. It is vital that other trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners back the demonstration on Tuesday, council workers should not be made to pay, by a Labour council, for a crisis that was not of our making.
It is increasingly clear that the council will not back down unless it meets determined industrial action from the council workforce. Some left Labour councillors may be embarrassed by being lobbied by their own workforce but ultimately Welsh Labour Councils will not baulk at attacking their own supporters and their own workforce to achieve cuts. Labour councils in Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff after all were pioneers in the early days of the Con-Dem government of using the threat of mass dismissals and re-employment on poorer terms, to drive through cuts to workers' conditions.
When the Green council in Brighton implemented similar cuts, there was UK-wide trade union backing for GMB members who refused to accept them. The fact that this is a Labour council can not be allowed to hamper the fight and the backing of UNISON members with all the resources they need. These Labour councillors were elected with substantial UNISON support; they have now forfeited any right to further support. UNISON should withdraw funding and support from Labour and instead back candidates who are prepared to vote in the interests of our members; candidates who are prepared to vote against all cuts, like TUSC Wales candidates.
As it turns out they did. We came third, beat the Tories and nearly doubled our share of the vote. We are beginning to build solid support for TUSC in Penyrheol. Next time we aim to overtake Labour and maybe win a seat.
A UNISON member
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