Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 16 February 2006

Sick of the system

ON 7 February, council workers in Tower Hamlets, east London went on strike. They walked out because of a new sickness procedure that the New Labour-dominated council imposed last September. The strike is a first step to force the council to throw out this draconian policy.

A Tower Hamlets UNISON, member

The policy sees the implementation of a 'trigger point' system - which means if workers are sick for three days in six months or five days in one year, they must report every day of any subsequent absence to 'First Assist'. First Assist, based in Croydon, is a call centre where they ask you why you're sick, what you are doing about it and when you will be back at work. There are only a couple of qualified occupational health nurses on site.

Not only do staff have to ring the call centre, in addition to calling their manager, on every day off sick, but also those on long-term sick leave have to do the same. The calls cost 10p per minute.

Some workers have had their sick pay stopped and the council has threatened to take any excess, not correctly reported leave, off annual leave (although as yet, they have not been able to implement this).

The council introduced this policy to try to live up to the government's unrealistic targets for local government. In Tower Hamlets there is a higher then average absence rate but rather then look at the reason why, the council prefers to bully its workers into coming to work when they are sick.

Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the UK. Is it any wonder that this impacts on the staff - many of whom live in the borough?

There was a 75% 'yes' vote for the strike. It was a success, with two of the council flagship 'Ideas Stores' and many other council buildings closing, including the Housing Benefits office. There were pickets on most major council buildings.

The council has contacted UNISON to open up discussions.

To make this campaign a success there must be unity of all the unions that represent local government workers. The GMB must listen to its members and ballot for strike action. The campaign must be broadened out into the community and increase the action.

UNISON's affiliation to New Labour also needs to be raised. This dispute is a perfect example of the need for a new party to represent the working class.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 16 February 2006:

Troops out of Iraq

Fight for your future

Hands off our schools!

ID cards: 'Creeping compulsion' and grovelling MPs

The real cost of BP mega-profits

Universities and the arms trade

Haitian poor rebel at suspected poll-rigging

Building an alternative to the profit system

New Labour attacks the sick and disabled

Keep fighting New Labour's Education Bill

Labour's pro-business policies are punished

The housing scandal

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month

Striking postal workers build support

Sick of the system

Marching for jobs and services


Home   |   The Socialist 16 February 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleReinstate Tony Smith

triangleA critical election for Unison general secretary

triangleHugo Pierre for Unison general secretary

triangleTower Hamlets council workers strike against wholesale attack on terms and conditions

triangleTrade union activists from across the south of England discuss the battle for safety on the frontline


triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleSussex: Hands off Peacehaven schools

triangleLiverpool Council must save care homes

triangleExtend eviction ban! Cap rents! Build council homes!


triangleThailand: Youth rising against hated junta

triangleLondon bus drivers begin strike ballot over remote sign-on dispute

triangleTate workers on indefinite strike hold march and rally


triangleWhy we joined the Socialist Party

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: The Labour Party - what is its future?

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


The Socialist

The Socialist: More than a newspaper



Coventry: Socialist Students is back



Liverpool Council must save care homes



Sussex: Hands off Peacehaven schools


Fighting Fund

Fighting fund: One week to raise 3,444



Workplace news in brief



Dispatches from the front - chaotic schools are not safe!


The Socialist

Selling the Socialist


Socialist Party

Why I joined the Socialist Party: Tories and Blairites only care about corporate greed


Young people

Covid generation says 'fund our future'



Coventry: scrap 'profit before people' hospital parking charges


National Shop Stewards Network

Lobbying for a lead from the TUC



Angry health workers demand 15% now!



Reinstate Richie Venton



Reinstate Tony Smith

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020