Unions getting ready for November 30 strike

Teachers marching on June 30 against pension cuts
Teachers marching on June 30 against pension cuts

Strike day leaflets and posters will be landing in Unison branch offices during this week, Unison has announced.

The materials being posted directly to branches are:

• Strike to defend your pension leaflet (stock number 3077);

• Take action to defend your pension generic poster (stock number 3078);

• Why we’re on strike today – leaflet for the public (stock number 3076).

They should all arrive by Friday November 18, and the amount of each item branches should receive, will depend on their membership.

‘We’re not going to stand for what you’re trying to do to our pensions,’ that’s the message that thousands of Unison members across the Yorkshire and Humberside region will tell ministers on November 30, regional head of health Pam Johnson says.

Johnson added: ‘There are four main rallies in Hull, Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield which are being coordinated by the public services committee through the TUC and some smaller events being organised locally in different towns across the region.’

Unison speakers are lined up to speak at all of the events with Unison assistant general secretary Cliff Williams due to speak at one of the region’s rallies on the day.

‘We’re encouraging anyone not needed on the picket lines to go to the rallies,’ Johnson said last weekend. ‘In health we’re going to maintain a picket all day.’

Some branches have organised coaches to ensure people are able to get to the main rallies too.

‘Among the branches,’ Johnson said, ‘the strength of feeling is that we will see thousands of people out on the day.’

People will also fill the streets across Scotland on November 30 with a series of rallies in each of the main Scottish cities, says Unison.

‘We had a good result in the ballot, people are clearly very angry, we’re expecting a good turnout on the day,’ Unison Scotland policy officer Stephen Low said.

The Scottish TUC has organised rallies for Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, with possibly more to be held in some of the bigger towns.

‘We’re fully involved in all the rallies,’ Low said.

The events are being advertised on mobile advertisement trailers travelling up and down the length of Scotland to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of them.

The November 30 day of action has received support from all six candidates in the Scottish Labour leadership elections, Low added last weekend, and momentum is growing among members and branches for turnout on the day.

Unison president Eleanor Smith told the national disabled members’ conference last week how, as a maternity nurse, she saw the impact of the government’s cuts programme on disability.

Neo-natal issues can lead to illnesses such as cerebral palsy she said, and all of this was being made worse by Tory cuts.

She spoke of how disabled workers joining an occupational pension scheme were threatened by the government proposals on pensions.

Disabled members may have to retire early – meaning they will have less years in accrual, they may require reduced working hours and they may have to take disability related breaks.

All this adds to the urgency of the pensions campaign.

Urging delegates ‘to keep the pressure on and do all we can to make 30 November a massive success,’ she told conference: ‘I cannot tell you how proud I am to be president of the union at this time . . . a time when teaching assistants, nurses, paramedics, cleaners and lollipop ladies are prepared to stand up and say enough is enough.’

Meanwhile, civil servants union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka will be speaking at events in the English midlands to make the case for the alternative to cuts ahead of joint action on 30 November.

Meetings in Lincoln and Nottingham will also include reps from other unions as we prepare for the biggest public sector strike in living memory.

Today, Tuesday 15 November, the public meeting in Lincoln Labour Club, from 5.30pm and 7.30pm, will also launch the Lincoln town committee.

On Wednesday, a members’ meeting will be held between 12.45pm and 1.45pm in the Irish Centre, 2-4 Wilford Street, Nottingham.

Strike day rallies are being planned across the region, and in all four nations of the UK, including the Albert Hall conference centre in Nottingham and Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena, with PCS president Janice Godrich.

PCS midlands regional secretary Andrew Lloyd said: ‘The turnout and events for our strike in June were the best we have ever seen in the midlands, and we’re planning to top that on 30 November.

‘These meetings are an ideal opportunity for members and others to find out more about why we’re taking action and discuss our alternatives to the government’s politically motivated and damaging cuts.’

The PCS also announced: ‘A community theatre group based in the West Midlands are supporting the three million striking workers on 30 November and have recorded an anthem “Rise up” to inspire and encourage support for this action.’

The PCS added: ‘You can view the video for the song on YouTube or even download the song and play it on your picket line on 30 November.

‘Banner Theatre is facing cuts to its funding so any proceeds from this download will support their appeal fund and allow them to continue to create campaigning documentaries.’

• A blueprint for the wholescale privatisation of Conservative-controlled Southampton city council’s services will be discussed by councillors tomorrow, Wednesday 16 November.

The Unite union in the country, is warning that the hard line council is pushing through its proposals, which could mean the council becoming primarily a commissioning body by 2015, without public consultation.

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: ‘If this plan goes ahead many of the council’s services will be done by private companies by 2015.

‘Southampton’s citizens need to wake-up to what is being planned without the necessary public consultation.

‘This will mean an inferior standard of services for the public with many city council jobs being lost as private companies drive down costs and cut corners on services to maximise shareholder profits.’

The council’s Change Programme, due to be discussed by the full council on Wednesday, said that gross costs need to be reduced by 25 per cent over the next three years. The report states: ‘By 2015, we expect to be primarily, a commissioning council.’

The report said that the controversial outsourcing firm, Capita, which has a chequered history in delivering services, is invited to meetings of the council’s Leadership Group.

Unite’s Woodland said: ‘The involvement of Capita does not augur well for the provision of services for the public, many of them vulnerable; and the future employment conditions and pensions of the council’s staff.

‘We are already in consultations with the council about a proposed loss of 147 jobs, which are not even mentioned in the Change Programme document which is a disgraceful sleight of hand.’

Unite has pointed out that a number of Tory councils, such as Suffolk County Council, had toyed with the ‘commissioning’ model, but were now retreating from this.

Commissioning involves expense and there is a fear that statutory services might not be delivered – the scandal of Southern Cross care homes being the most recent glaring example.

Members of Unite and Unison have been locked in a long-running dispute with the authority since the summer, involving strategic strike action, in an attempt to convince it to think again on imposed wage cuts of up to 5.5 per cent.

Since November 2010 the unions have proposed wage freezes and temporary pay cuts as a means of balancing its budget, while retaining services. The council has consistently rejected this.