At present all Unison members in Leeds City Council are being balloted on the Council’s final proposal for cuts. The unions were first balloted in February, with the joint trade unions rejecting the offer but continuing to negotiate. After the employer made slight concessions on what activists view as a poor deal the unions are now being asked to consult their members on all of the proposals or nothing.

A Leeds Unison Steward reports.

This situation in Leeds Unison has arisen not only because the Council have refused to make further concessions to parts of the offer but also because the GMB, also with a large membership, had already began to ballot its members. What is significant however, is the changing mood amongst the activists. Prior to this development, at an all-stewards meeting last month, the Unison leadership spent most of its time undermining the mood for strike action. Despite this, activists voted against doing nothing, with speaker after speaker describing what the offer really means for their members.

Shamefully our Labour-led Council have already rubber-stamped £90m of cuts in February and with wages making up almost half (£442m) of its total expenditure they are proposing a further £47m for next year. The Council intends to cut up to 3,000 jobs over 4 years with around 1000 already leaving this year through its Early Leavers Initiative.

A key sticking point for the unions has been the Council’s intended changes to its redeployment procedure (Managing Workforce Change). It intends to reduce that time from 12 months and 3 months notice; a total of 15 months (currently), to 9 months from July, and from April 2012 to 6 months. And they also want to reduce the pay protection staff have in the event they lose their job and are put into a lower grade from 3 years to 1 year. The redeployment policy was designed to protect staff from redundancy but with these reductions the employer is able get rid of staff much more readily without commitment to no compulsory redundancies.

Indeed, these proposals represent the biggest attack on jobs, pay and conditions to Council employees seen in decades and the effects of these cuts are becoming painfully clear, with the threats of closure to adult mental health centres, Leeds Crisis Centre, care homes for the elderly and libraries. With Children’s and Adult’s Social Services forced to contract, share services or to be outsourced, closed or be privatised it is the frontline services that our members proudly deliver that will suffer, which will have a detrimental impact on the population of Leeds.

Our employer has always been intent on implementing these cuts, however, it is imperative that all the unions must jointly organise and campaign for members to vote a decisive NO to these proposals, and in doing so build support for co-ordinated industrial action through protest lobbies and local demonstrations. Only decisive action can defeat the cuts.

The ballot ends on Monday 27th June.