Southampton Unions mulling new pay deal whilst preparing for N30 pensions strike

Posted on November 1, 2011 by

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No to all cuts, but will they accept slightly less than before?

"No to all cuts", but will they accept just slightly cuts less than before?

The members of the Southampton City Council Unite and Unison unions will tomorrow be meeting to discuss whether to accept or reject the latest pay deal between the Council and Union chiefs, which may see an end to months of industrial action across the City.

Even if they do accept though there’s likely to be further action over pensions as unions nationwide ballot their members to walk out on November 30th in potentially the biggest mass strike for decades.

After a day of action on October 6th reps from the Council and the unions hammered out a revised pay deal on October 14th, which would see the minimum salary for cuts to take effect raised slightly to £22,000 and % pay cuts lowered somewhat in pay grades closest to this level.  Additionally workers below £17,500 will see a slight increase in wages, all revised pay cuts backdated to July 11th and the Council will commit to not revisit changes to pay in their budget in the near feature.  Overall a bit more than half of workers will not be affected by direct pay cuts.

However, as part of the deal pay will still be frozen for two years (which with inflation booming equals significant equivalent pay cuts) and the unions would also drop their legal challenges against unfair dismissal by the Council through its fire and rehire tactic with the Employment Tribunal.

In spite of this deal being made, only a day later the Council announced the need for a further ~217 job losses, angering many union members over the spectacular timing of this announcement.  Union reps, who initially promised the Council to recommend the deal, have since moved to suggest rejection to the unions’ members.

The Council say their hands are tied in having to make some cuts as their central government funding has been cut and have tried to keep all front-line services open and staffed, but some have criticised the Council for taking out around £96 million in loans to fund their new museum and cultural quarter projects whilst simultaneously cutting staff pay and numbers.  Although the Council say this is under different budgets and so isn’t linked to other cuts, for workers the timing has not gone unnoticed.

Whilst some workers will be glad to potentially see the end of the dispute (and many residents too), others are angry over the major concessions given by union chiefs in the settlement, which is not substantially different from the initial proposals and also stops any possibility of compensation through the Employment Tribunal.

Some pundits have pointed out that the selective and rolling nature of the strikes have drawn out the dispute and allowed the Council to stick to its guns, leading to 98% of workers signing the fire-rehire contracts back in July.  Despite this defeat members voted for further strike action, but the union chiefs didn’t act on this until the Council agreed to a strike date of October 6th.

The support of union chiefs for the local Labour party in the upcoming local elections has also stirred opinion, since the leader of Southampton Labour group indicated he’d prefer to sack a whopping 1500 workers if he was in charge…  Whether these issues are raised in tomorrow’s mass meeting will be interesting to see.

Balloting on whether to accept the deals will commence on November 4th.

Meanwhile, the same workers and other workers across multiple unions across the country are currently being balloted on mass strike action on November 30th against the government’s pension plans for public sector workers.  Some are claiming that this will be the biggest strike since the General Strike in the twenties, and will most likely equal or surpass the public sector strikes in June.

With feelings remaining high in the Civic Centre and nationwide strikes on the table, it seems that Southampton will continue to see industrial actions and disputes for at least a while to come.

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Posted in: News, Southampton, UK