Southampton’s Unions reject Council cutback plans and promise to fight back

Posted on January 22, 2011 by

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Southampton’s main public sector unions have rejected the Council’s proposed changes to their working conditions (to include redundancies and large pay cuts) at a packed membership meeting on Thursday, and have promised to fight against its implementation.

"Who here won't be voting Tory in May?"

The packed meeting (photo credit Kevin Hayes)

Hundreds turned up for the joint meeting of UNISON and Unite members, which was called to present the Council’s proposals to members and decide on what their response should be.  The proposals were to the council workers in November, and meetings between management and Union officials have been ongoing since then.

In order to cope with cuts in central government funding by shaving £8.5 million , the Council indicated around 250 staff would have to be sacked and other staff’s pay reduced by 5.4%.  In response, the unions  described the cuts as ‘devastating’, and gave the Council a set of conditions of what the Council would have to do in order for the unions to work with them, which included commitments for no compulsory redundancies and that these reductions would be temporary.

However, the Unions claim that the Council has not met any of the conditions, and as a result the membership meeting rejected the Council’s proposals, saying that:

Given that the Conservatives have not met the conditions set out by UNISON and UNITE in November, and given the contents of the Conservatives proposals, this meeting rejects them and recommends UNISON and UNITE members reject them in the postal ballot our respective unions are organising following this meeting.

Marching on the Civic Centre, witty protest puns included

Marching on the Civic Centre, witty protest puns included (photo credit Kevin Hayes)

Concerns about the lack of adequate information for staff due to become redundant in the next 6 months and the cutting of school support staff wages despite not being part of the budgets to be cut (and so are more to do with the council avoiding a legal bill with equal pay claims) were also raised.

The meeting also agreed to organise a protest at the Council’s budget meeting on February 16th (where next year’s budget will be voted through, including the controversial allotment measures), to organise industrial action if staff are dismissed with 3 months notice, to attend the national Trade Union Congress (TUC) demo on March and to support local Labour party candidates in the local elections in May.

Following this the members present then marched through the streets on to the Civic Centre, where they held a noisy rally outside the Chief Executive’s office.

The City Council say that they have little choice in the issue, with significant cuts in funding from the Coalition and a limit placed on council tax too.  The next few months will most likely be turbulent for them though, with budget cuts coming through just as election season is starting to hot up.

UPDATE:

The ballot of union members on opposing the cuts has been delayed followed by an offer by the City Council to renegotiate some of the terms of the changes in working conditions.

Union reps will meet Council management tomorrow evening to discuss these, and another membership meeting on Thursday 3rd has been called to vote on it.  As a result, the union’s ballot has been delayed for 10 days to accommodate this, and will start on Feb 7th (ending Feb 20th).

A protest lobby has been called for the Council’s budget setting meeting on Wednesday 16 February, 1.00 p.m. to 2.00 p.m, outside the front of Civic Centre.

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Posted in: News, Southampton, UK