Southampton strikes back on

Submitted by Matthew on 21 September, 2011 - 12:53

Social care workers at Southampton council voted on Wednesday 14 September to take further strike action on Thursday 6 October as workers’ war against the Tory council’s pay cuts approaches its fifth month.

Other groups of workers will meet to discuss joining October’s strike.

Since June, workers across council departments have been involved in a bitter conflict with the city’s council as it seeks to impose across-the-board pay cuts of between two and 5.5%. The workers’ unions, Unite and Unison, have run a creative and ambitious dispute, employing strategic tactics designed to maximise impact and pressure on council bosses while reducing the financial burden placed on striking members. Strike tactics have been formulated and decided upon in mass members’ meetings rather than imposed from above by unaccountable union officials.

Some on the left have criticised the union for failing to mobilise its members across the council for one “big bang” day of all-out strike action, but the dispute’s longevity and the workers’ clear determination to continue fighting are a testament to the usefulness of rolling and selective action in terms of keeping workers mobilised over a long period of time.

When not striking, unions have kept up pressure with actions short of strike, and some 2,400 workers are continuing a work-to-rule, ongoing since June.

The sustained action has already forced council bosses back to the negotiating table for the first time in over a month. Unions said “some progress” had been made in talks which resumed on Tuesday 13 September. According to Unison, bosses have agreed to look at shifting the burden of pay cuts onto employees paid over £65,000 and reducing the impact for lower-paid staff.

The social workers’ vote for further strikes gives unions extra pressure to apply to ongoing negotiations.

• More info: Southampton UNISON website

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