Strike hits Southampton City Council as unions vote for a summer of industrial action

Posted on May 24, 2011 by

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Rolling strikes targeting Southampton City Council have begun after the Unison and UNITE union branches voted in favour of industrial action.

The walkouts have begun this week with over 100 refuse collectors walking out yesterday and holding a picket at the City Waste Depot (pictured).  The Unions’ plan is to have at least one section of their members on strike at any one time to keep the pressure up on the Council and down on the public.

Action short of the strike has also been enacted by union members, with overtime and all work outside of contract being refused.  Over 80% of respondents voted for this form of action whilst a slimmer majority voted for selective strikes.

The Unions have also launched a legal action against the Council, accusing the Council of failing to carry out a good enough consultation prior to dismissals as require by law.  Compensation of up to £12m may be on the cards if the bid succeeds, which the Tories say will take crucial money away from services.

Up to 4,300 workers jobs are at risk as a result of many workers refusing to sign the new contracts the Unions claimed have been forced upon them.  The Council claims they have no choice as they attempt to balance the books after funding cuts from central government.

UNISON Branch Secretary, Mike Tucker, commented, “The industrial action will demonstrate that the Council only functions because Council workers work unpaid overtime, carry out duties they are not paid for and cover for jobs that have been cut.  The selective strike action will mean key sections of the Council will be on strike for extended periods.  It is Council workers who keep the City running, not Councillors.  The industrial action we hope will bring the Conservative controlled Council back to the negotiating table.  Only a negotiated settlement can avoid a summer of strikes and disruption.”

In a speech to the Conservative Home Local Government Conference, Leader of the Council Royston Smith claimed that when taking into account member turnout and the slim majority that only 11% of Council workers vote for strike action, and said that “The unions have not behaved honourably. They have refused to negotiate claiming ‘it’s not for them to offer solutions’. They are pursuing legal action suggesting we haven’t consulted properly and claiming £12 million in compensation from Southampton’s taxpayers. They are clearly representing their organisations over the interests of their members.  In my opinion it must be better to be in a job on slightly less money than to have no job at all. So we will crack on and implement the changes to protect jobs for our staff and frontline services for our residents”

Talks between the Council and the Unions are now being planned through the ACAS mediation service in an effort to come to an agreement and prevent Southampton’s very own Summer of Discontent.

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Posted in: News, Southampton