Bromley council’s plans to carry out a mass privatisation of services are being challenged by members of Unite, the country’s largest union, with strikes on 7 and 8 April.
Unite’s members have voted by 87 per cent to take two days of strike action from 00.01 on Tuesday 7 April in protest against a mass privatisation programme, cuts to pay and conditions, and the withdrawal of facility time from the Unite trade union representative.
This will be selective action involving workers in libraries, adult services and parks at different times. There will also be a one hour strike involving all staff from 09.00 to 10.00 on Wednesday 8 April.
Despite having £130 million in reserves, the Conservative-dominated council is privatising the bulk of its services, including services aimed at vulnerable members of the community, parks, passenger services and libraries.
A hugely successful public campaign by the union has led to nearly a thousand residents signing up to protests against the council’s plans for its libraries – plans which include privatisation and replacing qualified, professional staff with volunteers.
The library plans are due to go to a future council meeting, and Unite has produced a report outlining detailed objections and will submit the survey to councillors.
The council has also attacked Unite by withdrawing time-off facilities from the Unite branch secretary – a move which, in fact, will cost the council more money as such reps have the ability of saving money by heading off potential disputes and grievances by their negotiating skills and in-depth knowledge.
The dispute comes against a backdrop of the launch a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.
The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Our overall campaign calls for a Fair Deal For Local Government and this strike will highlight what will happen to local government if the Tories are returned to power at the general election – a race to the bottom for services and the pay of council workers.
“Unite is drawing a line in the sand against privatisation and austerity in local government. Council services should be for the public good – and not as a cash cow for the private companies benefiting from lucrative outsourcing contracts.
“In Bromley, the company looking to take over parks is owned by a hedge fund – and they will be planning more than a bit of light pruning. They will do what hedge funds are set up to do; they will cut to the bone then scuttle away from the contract with a substantial profit.
“The people of Bromley have spoken – they do not want services privatised, as shown by our library survey– they don’t want libraries and parks run by quick-rich spivs and speculators.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771 818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
The main points of Fair Deal For Local Government campaign are:
- If services are performing well, leave them in house
- If they are not performing well, look at ways of putting it right in house
- When contracting out services, over 50 per cent of the consideration should be about quality rather than cost
- Fair employment rights for transferred staff – no zero hours contracts, pay the ‘living wage’, no downward pay and conditions harmonisation
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.