Unite and Unison have given Southampton City Council notice that unless the council lifts the threat of mass redundancies, due to come into effect on Monday 11 July, their six-week long strike will spread to more groups of workers.
Building maintenance workers, who carry out repairs on council housing stock, and Port Health Officers, who provide health protection within Southampton port and oil refinery, through inspection and certification of cruise liners, containers and oil tankers, will join the strike from 11 July unless the council backs down.
The impact of those workers joining the action would be enormous. Southampton’s port brings in around £300 million each year and could grind to a complete standstill if the strike is solid.
The 11 July round of action will also involve workers in waste and recycling, street cleansing, libraries, toll collection and parking enforcement. It is part of a creative strategy of indefinite rolling strikes whereby unions mobilise different sections of the workforce in order to apply the maximum ongoing pressure to management. By bringing workers central to the running of Southampton’s port and oil refinery into battle, the unions are significantly ratcheting up the potential impact of the dispute.
Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said “[Council leaders] Royston Smith and Jeremy Moulton must wake up now to how serious this city’s council employees are about getting justice. There is absolutely no need for this city to force people onto lower wages — to do so is a malicious attempt to bully worried working people into accepting any terms in order to hang onto their jobs. Our great port will now suffer badly thanks to the stubbornness of the council leadership. They know full well there is a better way forward and it ought to have dawned on them that the people of this city do not believe their dire propaganda about Southampton’s finances.”
Woodland dubbed 11 July “Armageddon Day” for the council and reminded bosses that the lifting of the sackings threat is the key demand of workers in this dispute.
He reminded them, however, that the lifting of the threat would only guarantee a suspension — not a cancellation — of the action.
Described as “the UK’s Wisconsin” because it mirrors Republican governor Scott Walker’s attempts to break the power of public sector unions in his state, the Southampton dispute – perhaps more so than even the 30 June strikes – represents the most important landmark in terms of labour movement resistance to the coalition’s cuts agenda. It is the one major dispute where unions have fought to win on the basis of sustained action and a high-level of rank-and-file participation and control. If the Southampton workers win, their victory will rock local government bosses throughout the country. If they lose, it will be a massive setback for all of us.
For more information, and details on how you can support the dispute, see: