Thursday 20th January 2011
By Matt Smith Political reporter Daily Echo
NEARLY one thousand council and health workers took to the streets of Southampton today in protest at pay cuts. A noisy demonstration made its way from Above Bar Church to a rally Southampton City Council’s headquarters at the Civic Centre.
Police officers stood guarding the entrance to the building as hundreds assembled outside chanting, blowing whistles and waving placards and banners. Some demonstrators sprayed their hair purple and green.
Members of the Unison and Unite trade unions earlier met at Above Bar Church to launch a ballot to reject council proposals to axe up to 250 jobs and cut the pay of more than 5,500 workers, including non teaching school staff, by 5.4 per cent without long term job security.
Council workers were joined in the demonstration by 150 striking cleaners from Southampton General Hospital. The cleaners, Unison members employed by Medirest, are taking three days of strike action over what they say is a failure to pay them NHS conditions.
Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “Council workers are angry that their jobs, pay and the services they provide are being hit by the budget being introduced by the Conservatives at both a national and local level.
“They do not accept that the only solutions are redundancies and pay cuts. The Conservatives are targeting the poor and the vulnerable in order to bail out the bankers who caused the economic crisis. Council workers will not pay for the bankers greed”.
Council leader Royston Smith said he was determined to show strong leadership in the face of “a severe economic climate”.
He said the council had “significantly less money” and faced the difficult choice of either cutting terms and conditions of laying off even more workers.