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Workers tell Bromley council: We won't sign up to your plans
Glenn Kelly, Bromley council staff side secretary (personal capacity)
Last week saw the biggest workers' meeting in the history of Bromley council (south London) as 300 packed into the council chamber for a lunchtime meeting and then another 80 attended a meeting at 5pm.
I had called the meeting in response to the council issuing every worker a letter asking them to opt out of the national terms and conditions.
Having failed to persuade workers that local pay and conditions are a good idea, the council is offering a one-off payment of £200 each, costing £900,000, and a 0.7%-1.7% pay rise, costing £1.2 million a year. It is promising to protect existing terms and conditions for two years.
The workers want to reject this offer. This is significant when you think we haven't had a pay rise for three years and this year nationally the employers have offered 1% but with attacks on terms and conditions.
I had invited representatives of Unison, Unite and the GMB to address the meeting and we now have the two biggest unions (Unison and Unite) not only supporting the call for workers not to sign up to the deal, but both have now began a consultation ballot with their members calling on them to support the call for strike action.
The council is using carrot and stick tactics, saying 'sign by 11 March and we will give you the money and a pay rise, refuse and we will sack and re-engage everyone'.
Despite the threats, over 100 workers handed in their letters to me at the meeting, signed to say they wouldn't agree to change their contract and more are arriving each day.
This alone legally now forces the council to carry out another three months of consultation, buying us more time to build for strike action.
The campaign shows that if a lead is given, workers are willing to fight to defend their pay even at a time of massive cuts.
This is a lesson our national leaders need to learn and not use the cuts as an excuse not to fight for a decent pay rise this year.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 5 February 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.