Striking housing workers in Chesterfield last week. Picture: James Eden

Some 100 manual ­workers at Chesterfield Borough Council’s housing ­department took two days of solid strike action last week. They walked out over the council’s failure to resolve a long-running grievance over its bonus system.

The workers—craftspeople such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians—have “Red Book” contracts of employment. These should guarantee a basic pay rate plus ­job-related bonus payments. But the way the pay is ­calculated in Chesterfield means that in effect the group of workers has not had a pay rise for 13 years.

When nationally ­negotiated rates of pay under the local government NJC rise, Chesterfield housing “Red Book” workers receive no increase at all in their pay packets. Nationally, Unite union members in local government are rightly taking action over the below-inflation pay deal being offered by employers.

But housing workers in Chesterfield will not even get this below-inflation pay rise. After years of inaction Unite members are now organised at the ­Stonegravels depot. They have elected new reps and after a ballot result of 94 percent launched a campaign of strikes.

Unite Rep Liam Rich said, “The response of the ­members has been fantastic. None of us have really ever done anything like this before, but we’ve had a great turnout on the picket lines. And if we get no ­movement from the council we will give notice to escalate to a week’s strike.”

James Eden

Social work strike suspended for talks

Planned strikes by social workers in the Emergency Duty Service (EDS) in Swindon were called off last week to allow for talks. The social workers were set to launch a two-week strike last Thursday, followed by strikes every weekend.

Council bosses have cut the pay for social workers working out-of-hours shifts. Workers now get no extra pay for working 12-hour weekend shifts between 9am and 9pm. Enhanced rates only come into effect after 10pm. The workers had voted for an impressive strike plan and expected to walkout every weekend until next January.

GMB union branch secretary Andy Newman, said, “GMB and our members attended meetings with Swindon Borough Council which were in part constructive. The council failed to invite the GMB to the first meeting and tried to meet the workers without their chosen union in attendance.

“Making an offer direct to union members and bypassing the union is unlawful. We are disappointed that a Labour council is attempting to use these union-busting tactics.”

The threat of strikes has forced council bosses to come to the table, and they should not have been paused for talks. Why should workers show any “goodwill” to a council robbing them of around £700 per month? Workers should keep striking until their demands are met.

North Tyneside

Workers employed by North Tyneside council were set to strike on Wednesday this week and 13 September. The 260 Unite union members rejected the national joint council NJC pay offer of £1,925. The workers are predominantly in building trades, health visitors, school and nursery nurses, admin roles and bereavement services.

Councils are not bound to follow the local pay increase and can pay a higher rate. A total of 23 local authorities voted for strikes in a Unite union dispute that will escalate throughout the autumn.

Refuse and recycling

Bin strikes in Selby North Yorkshire have come to an end. Workers employed by Urbaser on behalf of the unitary authority voted for an 8 percent pay rise backdated to April. Drivers will also see their bonus for the year consolidated into basic pay so overall their wages will rise by 15.1 percent. And a single payment of £57.54 will be added when collection crews are reduced from three to two workers, which will be backdated for every instance of reduced crew since April.

The workers walked out on several occasions over the last three months. If the action continued, the workers may have won a higher pay rise than they were offered.

•Refuse workers in Thanet, Kent are planning to strike for two weeks from next Monday. Workers demand they are paid the same as workers at other councils. The GMB union has called for talks at Acas. But workers shouldn’t trust talks to win them a good deal. In the event of talks, strikes should still go ahead to keep up the pressure on the bosses.

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