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2 February 2011
Rhondda Cynon Taff - building action against cuts
Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) council in South Wales has told its 10,000 strong workforce to sign new contracts - which constitute a massive pay cut - or lose their jobs.
Unison and the GMB have told members not to sign, but they are offering no way forward.
An Environmental Services worker spoke to a Socialist Party Wales member:
"The council is offering £1,000 compensation to sign the new contract. That £1,000 could go a long way for me at the moment, but it's blackmail.
"They want to take away my 'time and a half' for Saturdays and my driving money. I could lose £1,700 a year.
"On top of all that, they'll be paying us by the calendar month, instead of every four weeks, so that's another £1,000 a year. It's different for each person. Very often, if there are four people in a team, everyone is on different money. A lot of people didn't even realise that they were on bonuses - and now those bonuses are going to be taken away.
"I wouldn't mind losing money if they were going to put us all on the same. It should be the same money for the same hours and the same work. It's chaos and everyone is being hit hard - from the cleaners to the IT department. "The worst of it is, if we sign these contracts, we're on probation for three to six months.
"That means we could be sacked at any moment. The truth is the council is run on goodwill, but when they take the bonuses, the overtime and all the rest of it away, we'll only work what we're supposed to.
"If we refuse to do the duties we're no longer being paid for, they'll be able to sack us, if we're on probation.
"On top of that, how do we know the council aren't intending to make redundancies? This would be the easy way to do it. If they come back within the three to six month probation period and say 600 people have to go - there'll be nothing we can do.
"The union has called two meetings. Both times, they told us at the last minute and the meetings were held in tiny rooms, with all the people who couldn't get in trailing way down the corridor.
"You're trying to hear what's going on - in a noisy environment - and at the end of the day the message is: just wait and we'll get back to you. The last time it was in the sports centre with a massive hall downstairs empty.
"They said they didn't realise there would be so much interest, but it's the second time it's happened. What we need is all to get together, all three unions - in a big hall - and sort out a plan. The union has promised to send out letters, but we've had nothing. All they've told us is not to sign.
"They've told us about the demo in Pontypridd on 19 February, but that will be too late. The deadline for the contracts is the 18th. We're running out of time. I take home £900 a month and I give £840 to my wife to pay the mortgage and all the bills. She works in Asda and gets minimum money. I can't cut what I give her, so where will it come from? I have to pay for my mobile, because the council has to be able to contact me. I have to pay for my petrol, because they only pay 13p a mile.
"What really upsets me is, you turn on the telly and look at parliament and they're all bickering and laughing at our lives. It's a joke to them."
A care worker added: "I will lose £2,000 a year if this goes through. I went to a meeting of all four unions and they just said that legally we cannot stop what the council is doing. But we have to do something".
Many council workers are asking why industrial action cannot be taken against the council. Some suspect that the union leaders do not want to embarrass the Labour council just before the Assembly elections.
Socialist Party Wales in Rhondda Cynon Taff is calling for an immediate strike ballot of RCT council workers for all out action with emergency cover, to defeat these vicious cuts.
Workers are particular angry at the chief executive and councillors. The chief executive earns well over £100,000 a year yet he expects low paid workers to cut their earnings by more than 10%.
There is also real anger at the Labour council. One council worker who will lose £4,000 a year said: "I have walked miles and miles for Labour delivering leaflets, but never again".
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