Nearly 10,000 workers at Doncaster council could face losing their jobs unless they agree to worse contracts imposed by council bosses as part of a £7.5 million cuts programme.
Negotiations on the package, which includes a 5.4% pay cut for many workers, were not due to conclude until mid-November, but bosses have attempted to short-circuit that process by blackmailing employees into accepting the new terms.
Paul Smillie, the convenor for 800 members of the Unite union at the council, said his members were “up in arms” at the way council bosses had disregarded an ongoing negotiation process. Unison’s Jim Board said that the council’s action “demonstrates a failure to take the negotiations seriously and deliberately drive through changes without the union having a say.”
He called it “a bullying approach which is now hanging over us”, and said that unions would “respond very quickly by initiating internal dispute resolution procedures.”
A series of local authority disputes over 2010 and 2011 showed that using “Section 188”, the legislation that allows bosses to impose contractual changes through the threat of mass sackings, is now the go-to tactic for public sector employers seeking to shortcut around collective bargaining and negotiating processes. While strikes, such as the London FBU dispute in late 2010, have succeeded in mitigating the impact of such changes, unions have found it hard to maintain members’ resolve to resist with the threat of losing their jobs hanging so conspicuously over their heads.
Public sector union activists need to urgently work out strategies for beating mass sackings, and the labour movement nationally needs to campaign for the abolition of laws that make a mockery of trade union recognition and agreements.