A campaign to safeguard the pay and terms and conditions of Newham council’s workforce and, ultimately, the council services for the more than 300,000 residents in the east London borough is being launched by Unite, the country’s largest union.
The first step in the campaign will be to fight a proposed £1.8 million axe to the pay and conditions of council workers – and if the council proceeds with its plans, the union said that an industrial action ballot was on the cards.
One of the areas to be hardest hit is overtime pay – but the union points out that low paid council workers depend on regular overtime pay so that they can earn a half decent wage to survive in one of the world’s most expensive cities.
The council intends to dismiss and re-engage its workforce on poorer contracts – Unite said that this move is expected in the new year.
The cuts come to nearly £2 million – yet the council had £161 million in general fund reserves for the financial year 2015/2016. In addition, no cuts are being proposed to councillors’ allowances and the mayor Sir Robin Wales receives a handsome annual allowance of £81,029.
Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said: “This is not a campaign demanding a pay increase – all we are demanding is that the pay and conditions of public service workers are not cut.
“The authority needs to remember that for years council workers took a pay freeze so the books could be balanced – and Unite would draw councillors’ attention to the large level of reserves, compared with the scale of cuts now being directed at our members.
“To be told that such drastic cuts are now on the cards is not acceptable. That is why this union is launching the campaign in the run-up to Christmas; with the prospect of an industrial action ballot very likely, unless the council rows back on these proposals
“We are planning lobbies of council meetings and events, Saturday stalls and demonstrations.
“A petition will be launched and all 60 councillors will get an email at the time of the launch asking them to think again.
“We will give every worker the chance to make a stand for decent pay and conditions – and more generally, the preservation of services that the growing population of the borough requires on a daily basis.”
The current proposals include: overtime cuts from 50 per cent extra pay to 25 per cent (Monday to Saturday) for many workers; night work pay cuts from 33 per cent extra to 20 per cent with the number of hours applicable being reduced, and maternity pay reduced by 12 weeks.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.