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Southampton: Anger grows as workers face the sack
Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party
On 11 July, Southampton council workers faced the sack unless they signed new contracts cutting pay and enhancements. But at least 400 workers were yet to sign the contract.
Port, bin, library, traffic and toll bridge workers were out on strike on the 11th, as part of coordinated action across the council workforce.
Port Health Authority workers explained why they have joined the strike and what impact it will have: "We stand to lose £200 a month under the new contracts.
"Clearly we can't afford pay cuts. It will de-motivate people and we will lose quality staff. This is the first time we have come out on strike.
"We are not happy about this. We do a good job and are proud of the service we provide.
"The cost of our work is almost covered by the fees the council charges. Our jobs involves inspecting all ships in and out of the city, massive amounts of containerised food destined for Sainsbury's, KFC and Iceland will sit on the quays.
"We are also responsible for all international shipping going to the Exxon refinery at Fawley and BP Hamble."
Southampton dockers joined the pickets, saying they would not touch any cargo handled by scabs during the dispute. Spirits were high despite the serious situation workers face.
Many were angered by reports in the local press at the weekend that Richard Williams, leader of Southampton Labour group, opposed the strikes.
In the article Williams is quoted saying 1,500 jobs would need to go to balance the books. A local Unite official said his phone had been red hot with the response from members.
One Unite striker said if he'd been asked last week he would have considered rejoining the Labour Party but not now.
Socialist Party members have consistently argued against the need for any cuts and have put forward an alternative 'needs budget', drawn up by workers, the trade unions and the community.
We should fight the government for full funding for the services we need.
The council unions are organising a mass demonstration and protest outside Wednesday's full council meeting, when 700 council workers will be on strike.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 July 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.