Most Leeds city council workers learned with alarm about the council’s intention to impose job cuts and erode our conditions of service from 1 April in a letter and through local news channels in February. This was without any agreement with the trade unions, so all the trade unions involved, Unison, GMB, Unite and Ucatt, have formally lodged a dispute.
A Unison steward
The council intend to cut 650 jobs through ‘natural wastage’. This will mean less staff, more work, more pressure, and more stress, and consequently our services will suffer.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If we don’t strike to successfully resist these job losses and attacks on our working conditions, our wages, pensions and conditions will be further undermined.
These attacks come at a time when the unions have been seen at their weakest.
Unison convenor, NEC, and Service Group Executive member, John McDermott has recently been sacked by his employer, East North East Homes, an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO), for representing and supporting members. Despite Unison members lobbying Leeds council, they refused to intervene.
It is widely known that Unison’s Leeds local government branch has been in under special regional supervision, hampering its ability to campaign, as it has been seen as a left-led branch.
At the same time, the local government unions have not acted in unity over single status, pensions and more recently on the national pay claim.
I know my members are angry. They are angry at losing out over the Single Status Agreement, and that our efforts to strike over the government’s derisory national pay award were dampened by the national leadership’s unilateral decision to take our pay claim to arbitration.
Our Unison branch is conducting an indicative ballot to see if members are prepared to stand up to defend jobs, to defend services, and defend our trade union rights. I’ll be encouraging my members to vote ‘yes’ for strike action and to vote for candidates committed to transforming Unison into a fighting, democratic union in the coming NEC elections.