Labour Swansea Council's attacks anger UNISON. We need a political alternative.
5th August 2013
Swansea's Labour Council has angered UNISON members after they decided to press ahead with cuts to hundreds of members' pay and indicated their willingness to impose these changes despite the vote to reject by UNISON members. Deputy Leader of the Council, Christine Richards, indicating the determination of the Labour Council to implement these cuts, said, "..we've now reached the point where further negotiations will not result in agreement".
The Council changes are being proposed under the cover of job evaluation - making cuts in the name of equality. UNISON members voted overwhelmingly to reject the Council's proposals despite the lack of a clear recommendation in the ballot. This is an indication of how devastating for many members these proposals are. Over 2,000 council workers stand to lose summer retainers; amongst the worst affected are nursery nurses who stand to lose weeks of pay. Some manual workers such as those in refuse have previously estimated that they could lose £4,000 or more in shift allowances, unsocial hours and bonuses.
Many UNISON members voted for the Labour councillors who are now attacking their terms and conditions. The branch also encouraged members to go out and campaign for their election. This explains the anger now at the Labour councillors' determination to pass on Tory cuts and make our members pay for the crisis in funding. Eddie Gabrielson, regional UNISON officer, is quoted in the local papers as being very disappointed with the Labour administration and warning that, "the Council will regret its implementation".
UNISON still hopes to mitigate these cuts through further negotiations but it is important that members understand the determination of the Council to press ahead and it is only an equal determination to take action in defence of terms and conditions that can force them to back down.
Labour councillors in Swansea have tried to delay headline cuts in services by trying to achieve savings from their own workforce in the first instance, putting up council tax above the rate of inflation and financing an annual deficit from reserves. But this situation won't last. Users of Council services be wary; it is impossible to make cuts to the conditions of workers providing services without affecting the quality of service provided. In any case, these attacks on the workforce won't achieve the savings need to stay with Con-Dem spending limits, passed on by the Welsh Government. The Council will come back and drastically cut services, if not this year, then next year or the one after. it is important therefore that UNISON builds links with service users in the local community to fight all cuts.
As well as organising for action and linking with service users to defend services, UNISON needs to fight these attacks from a Labour Council politically. UNISON should be prepared to support candidates opposing cuts in future Council elections and should warn that any Labour Councillor voting for these attacks on our members will be considered fair game for a challenge. Swansea is not the only Labour council attacking UNISON members' pay; our branch should link with others in a similar situation to demand that UNISON break with Labour and instead fund and campaign for candidates prepared to vote in our members' interests against all cuts, such as Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition candidates.