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12 January 2011

Kirklees council: First round victory in cuts battle

On 7 January, at one of the biggest stewards' meetings in Kirklees Unison branch's history, the branch voted to call off the planned five-day strike which had been endorsed by a mass ballot of the 7,500 strong membership only two weeks earlier. Instead a last minute deal was reached which was in line with the union demands to halt the council's plans.

Mike Forster

The council has backed down over its plans to impose compulsory redundancies, reduce redundancy pay and try to select people for redundancy with a poor sickness record.

Before Christmas, the council was making threats to the workforce that hundreds of jobs could be on the line. They were trying to break morale and trade union organisation. However, they were banking on a 'No' vote in the ballot that had been running through most of December.

The council was pushing dark propaganda that there was no choice but to make the cuts and that they were looking after the best interests of their workforce. But Unison members delivered a 'Yes' vote for action which was announced on 21 December.

The following day a mass meeting of stewards called on the union to act on the ballot result and a strike was planned. This concentrated the minds of the council who made a new offer to the union on 30 December.

They have backed away for the time being but the agreement is only in place until 1 April. Although this is a Labour council, they have made it clear that they intend to push through yet more cuts.

The Socialist Party bulletin produced by Unison members called this a temporary truce. Our task now is to strengthen union and workplace organisation in preparation for bigger battles to come.

A rally called in Huddersfield on 8 January celebrated this victory. As the chair of the rally said, we have won the first round in a much longer battle which we must win if we are to save public services.

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