At the time of writing, 270 day-centre workers employed by Glasgow City Council are beginning their sixth week of all-out indefinite strike action.
The workers, members of Unison, work in twelve centres across Glasgow, providing support and care to people with varying degrees of physical and learning disabilities, as well as providing assistance to their families and carers. It is a difficult job and carries a high degree of responsibility.
Like the strike by the social care workers during the summer, this strike has been triggered by the Council’s Pay and Benefits Review. In theory, by implementing the “Single Status Agreement”, this review is meant to eliminate the pay inequalities suffered by women employees. In practice, the Council is trying to use it as an excuse to deskill jobs and cut pay.
To add insult to injury, most day-centre workers are women. In other words, a review which was meant to benefit women workers would, if implemented, result in wage cuts for a predominantly female sector of the Council workforce of between £3,000 and £6,000 a year.
The Council is also intent on cutting services for day-centre users.
Almost simultaneously with the start of the strike, the Council announced a review of the future of day-centres. It appears that the Council’s intention is to shut down most of the day-centres, axe around 50 of the jobs, transfer the services previously provided in the centres to “hubs”, and focus on getting service-users into education and employment.
To date, the Council has taken a hard line both in response to the strike and also in conducting (or, more accurately, not conducting) consultation on its review of day-centres, which, it has claimed, will be completed by Christmas.
The Council has refused to attempt to negotiate a settlement to the strike with the strikers unless Unison agrees to its “modernisation” programme. And it has also refused to engage in consultation about “modernisation” unless the strike is called off.
In order to force the Council to back down, the strikers, who voted over eight to one in favour of strike action, have been running a high profile campaign.
Strikers have staged demonstrations outside Glasgow City Chambers, the former Fruitmarket (when the result of Glasgow’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games was announced), and the Scottish Parliament (where SNP MSPs told strikers that they had their sympathy, but financing a settlement of the dispute was a matter for Westminster rather than Holyrood).
On Saturday 17 November a well-attended rally and demonstration took place in Glasgow city centre, with delegations from Unison branches in Edinburgh, Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire.
Street collections, workplace collections, and union branch donations have already raised £17,000 for the strikers, reflecting the broad support enjoyed by the strikers not just in the trade union movement but also among the public as well.
While financial support for the strikers needs to be maintained, it is equally important that other potential disputes arising out of the Pay and Benefits Review are brought forward, so that the Council is not left able to take on one group of workers at a time.
• Send messages of support and donations to: Glasgow UNISON, 18 Albion Street, Glasgow G1.