The meeting heard how management had withdrawn the proposals to reduce our terms and conditions of employment on Friday 1st October due to the ‘strength of feeling’ amongst staff opposed to the changes. This is a good example of what can be achieved when members stand together in unity. However this is by no means the end of the matter and management will be returning over the next couple of weeks with updated proposals.
This is all happening at a time when the government is attacking the public sector and welfare state and so we should not be complacent about the struggle ahead. The comprehensive spending review which will be released on 20th October is likely to set out huge cuts in public funding with council’s likely to be bashed the hardest.
Staff should be clear of the two principles on which our approach is based. Firstly we should not feel guilty for being paid a decent living wage and receiving good terms and conditions of employment. Secondly we are not responsible for the financial crisis gripping the global economy, all we have done is turn up to work, do a good job and pay our taxes.
The meeting on Monday was a great start and it was fantastic to see so many staff taking an active role in their trade union simply by coming along and hearing what people had to say.
Members in attendance made some excellent contributions throughout with hot topics on the day being the chief executives restructure, consultants and of course the cuts and what they could mean.
Suggestions from the chamber floor included:
- That the top three tiers of management should, as a gesture of goodwill at a time when staff are being asked to consider cutbacks, take a 25% pay cut themselves,
- More scrutiny on highly paid consultants who drain precious public funds,
- Demands for better redeployment practices.
The meeting also passed two motions mandating the branch executive to undertake the following tasks:
- Ballot all council employed members to establish whether staff are prepared to take industrial action, up to and including strike action to protect jobs and services,
- Lobby councillors to fight the cuts and support council staff,
- Keep members informed of developments as they happen.
We can confirm that we have already made arrangements for the ballot and members should receive a ballot paper to their home address within the next week or so. The branch is supporting a yes vote but whatever your view it is important that members complete and return their ballot papers in the prepaid envelope provided. If you haven’t received a ballot paper by Wednesday 20th October please contact the branch on 020 8356 4071 and we will get one sent out to you. The ballot is consultative and does not mean that you will have to take strike action. It is designed to gauge the feeling amongst staff and establish whether industrial action is an option for the future. If we later decide to take industrial action we will ballot members again as we are legally required to do so. The ballot will close on 15th November at 5pm.
We have also written to every Labour councillor in Hackney setting out our concerns and asking for their support. Members can also be assured that we will continue to keep you posted throughout.
It’s easy to forget sometimes the role that trade union workplace organising plays in improving the lot for workers in Hackney and the wider working world. Members often think that the union is a service, something to call on when you’re in a spot of bother but this is not the case. Members of Hackney Unison are the union; we are a democratic organisation where the lowest paid member of staff has an equal voice to the manager paying top rate subscriptions. The best way to make your union work for you is to get involved and make your voice heard.