On the afternoon of Wednesday 8 April, the Labour council in Tower Hamlets, East London, pulled back at the brink of sacking its entire workforce and re-employing them on worse terms.
Just a few days before their deadline, Mayor John Biggs and Chief Executive Will Tuckley said they would delay - but only until "early summer" (unspecified) so the threat remains live.
The move is not motivated by an immediate budget crunch. Central government's decision on funding to councils for the financial year beginning April 2020 included no new cuts, and, since then, in the pandemic, central government has been willing to hand out extra cash to councils.
The move would bring the workforce down to national-minimum "green book" levels on issues like redundancy pay, wiping out more favourable locally-negotiated conditions which survive in Tower Hamlets as in some other local authorities (including right-wing Labour ones). Tower Hamlets council has no particular pressure to make redundancies, and the move seems down to gratuitous zeal about "clearing the decks".
Both local Constituency Labour Parties strongly oppose the move. The council tried to use Tory anti-union law to stop the NEU (National Education Union) balloting locally, but backed down. NEU, Unison, and GMB all then returned huge majorities for strikes against the move, but suspended their strikes on the onset of the pandemic.
The following appeal is being circulated by activists in Tower Hamlets
As you know in four days time [13 April 2020] Tower Hamlets Council is sacking all staff in order to re-employ them on contracts overwhelmingly rejected by their unions.
Whilst unions have suspended plans to strike because of the COVID-19 Crisis, management are pressing ahead. We are therefore planning to send this letter to newspapers from 1.30 today.
We have over 100 signatures from across the London Labour Party - please would you consider adding your name?
Solidarity, Marc, Bethnal Green and Bow Trade Union Liaison Officer
• For more see Tower Hamlets Unison