‘SHAME ON YOU TOWER HAMLETS’ – workers fighting mass sackings and wage cutting

Tower Hamlets council worker strikers on the picket line at Albert Jacob House yesterday morning

‘TOWER Hamlets, shame on you!’ shouted the 40-strong picket of striking council workers outside Albert Jacob House on Roman Road in east London yesterday morning.

Council workers are furious after Tower Hamlets sacked the 2,700 staff who refused to sign the new contracts. The council then re-employed them on the new contracts anyway, imposing worse pay and conditions.

This is the second round of strike action and there were at least four picket lines; Marlberry (the town hall), Mile End Road, Johnson Onslow House and Albert Jacob House.

They continue on strike this morning and Friday morning as well.

Unison, which represents the strikers, says that although they have been put on new contracts, those contracts have been imposed under duress. And as the strikers have not signed they are in dispute with the new contracts and the council.

On the picket line outside Albert Jacob House, Kerrie Anne, assistant Unison branch secretary, told News Line: ‘Two thirds of the workforce have not signed the new contract. On the 6th July the council sacked 2,700. They have waged a year long campaign of intimidation and fear to get people to sign, and 1,300 signed.

‘Regardless of that, the vast majority of our staff did not.

‘As soon as everyone was sacked we were immediately re-employed on the inferior contracts. This is obviously a legal tool which you expect to see being used in unscrupulous companies, not a Labour council.

‘This is robbery, the whole thing is robbery. This is a strike we can win!’

Unison member Fathema Khatun told News Line: ‘We are on strike because the council have brought in new terms and conditions and they have been forced upon us. We were sacked and re-engaged on new conditions of employment.

‘One of the major impacts of these new conditions is that they will make it easier to sack people in the future. They have already done this in other councils like Newham. The other unions have to come out on strike with us. They have no choice, they have to join us, this affects all of us.’

Anna Bezzina, Unison shop steward, said: ‘With the new contract one of the basic things that affects all of us is the changes to the Flexi Scheme which allowed you to manage your 35-hour week. This really affects those with child care commitments or those who need to look after elderly parents. It is a scheme that has worked for 30 years.

‘There is a whole tranche of things they have tried to introduce via the “Reward Scheme”.

‘One of those was to increase the working week to 36 hours with no extra pay. They were forced to withdraw that after we ruled it out as unacceptable.

‘The biggest issue at the moment is severance. At the moment we get enhanced severance. They are trying to cap it. With this new contract, pay scales will change. We refused to sign and we reject the whole thing and now they are trying to impose it by force.’