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Hackney Workers Prepare For Battle
AMID THE chaos that is working life in Hackney council, workers are preparing to ballot for further strike action.
By a Hackney UNISON shop steward
This new ballot is the result of the latest management provocation in sacking UNISON chief negotiator Noah Tucker on trumped-up charges of being absent from work without permission. The union will launch an appeal against this while the ballot proceeds.
Management, egged on behind the scenes by the government, are trying to intimidate UNISON as they prepare to introduce the new contracts that we've successfully opposed for ten months. D-Day is 2 October and management are attempting to punish UNISON for opposing their cut-back plans.
Management estimates claim that contractual changes will save the council £1.8 million per year. Hackney UNISON oppose these changes because we feel that this £1.8 million is coming straight out of low-paid council workers' pockets. Why should we be punished for senior management's incompetence and corruption?
We also know that a £1.8 million saving means nothing against a budget deficit that is now spiralling beyond £100 million. Hackney won't be saved by a cuts massacre; our services need a serious cash injection from central government. Services also need union, community and user group participation in their running to ensure past corruption and mismanagement is not repeated.
There are also rumours that Jean Webster, a town hall UNISON shop steward, is facing the sack for allegedly not signing her new (reduced terms) contract. Our union's future depends upon us being able to protect any activist facing victimisation - that is why we must get a YES vote in the upcoming ballot.
The attempt to sack Noah Tucker is about scaring UNISON members and activists into complying with the policies proposed by egotistic chief executive Max Caller. Even the Hackney Gazette commented: "The race to save money is wrecking services in Hackney as the council flounders beneath the strain of debt."
The strike ballot will run from 29 August-18 September. As always the local Socialist Party branch is preparing to leaflet council workplaces. Hopefully we can persuade local workers about the need to support the strike action to stop management intimidation and interference with the independence of our union.
There is no doubt that Hackney's crisis will not be resolved without settling the question of funding. At present, the ground is being prepared for a long, drawn-out battle with regular outbreaks of official and unofficial action attempting to curtail senior management's vindictive excesses.
For now we must continue to rebuild our once decimated union into a force capable, with the local community behind us, of creating a council that eliminates the incredible poverty and degradation that exists in Hackney.
In The Socialist 31 August 2001: