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Local government keywords:
100,000 council workers given redundancy notices
Defend jobs and services
Coordinated trade union action needed
During the first week of December local councils will be told in exact cash terms what the cuts will mean for them over the next four years. However, the reality is that for months senior managers and councillors have been preparing behind the scenes to unleash a wholesale attack on council jobs and services, the like of which has never been seen before.
A local government worker
The scale of it was bought home to me in recent negotiations with an education director. He said that youth service plans would mean the end of the service as it has existed since the 1960s.
He also warned that the cuts could effectively mean the end of the Local Education Authority, and that he may even have to alter his report proposing 40% cuts for even bigger ones once we see the new education White Paper.
What is also clear is that a growing number of councils, perhaps fearing the reaction to the outright closure of too many services, are seeking to frighten council workers into taking cuts in pay and conditions instead.
Nationally, 100,000 council workers have now been issued with 90-day notices which effectively put a gun to their heads to accept cuts in pay and conditions or face the sack.
Disgracefully, some Labour councils, such as Rhondda Cynon Taff, are handing out mass sacking notices to their entire workforce.
The latest council to use this bullying method is Tory-led Southampton which, on top of 250 job cuts, is proposing a 5.4% pay cut by reducing employees' working week by two hours.
The council is also proposing a two-year pay freeze, stopping pay increments, and no sick pay for the first three days off sick. The workers have been told to take this or there will be another 400 jobs to go. But the reality is that councils will take the pay cuts today and come back for the job cuts tomorrow.
In response, you might expect local government unions to immediately call together all the affected union branches to plan a campaign, including launching a coordinated ballot for strike action. Imagine a strike of 100,000 council workers all out together and what that would do for the confidence of workers everywhere to fight.
Unfortunately, there is no such lead being given and branches are being left isolated to fight alone. In fact some of the tops of the union are wrongly seeking to blame the members by saying that 'polls show that members are in favour of cuts'.
Local union branches need to offer a fighting alternative to the members, as in Kirklees, Telford, Shropshire and Nottingham councils. We need to be demanding, as a start, that the £2 billion sat in council reserves is spent to protect jobs and services as part of a massive campaign to force the government to retreat.
Union leaders must begin to coordinate action and to plan for a one-day public sector general strike.
Where the union leaders fail to bring branches together to coordinate action then this must be done from below by the local branches and through the local and national anti-cuts movement.
The National Shop Stewards Network conference in January will provide a key opportunity for such coordination. Every public sector worker, trade unionist, service user and student should put it in their diary now.
National Shop Stewards Network
National anti-cuts conference
Saturday 22 January 2011
11.30am - 3.30pm
South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1 1RG (by Euston Station)
The NSSN is the union rank and file body founded by the RMT transport union in 2007. It has organised annual national conferences since then involving hundreds of trade unionists. The NSSN is active locally, regionally and nationally, pulling together workers in struggle. We say not one job or one service should be cut. Never has there been a greater need for coordinated action.
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