Birmingham members to strike against savage cuts

(22/06/11)

UNISON council workers in Birmingham have voted to take industrial action in protest against a new contract proposed by the city, which attacks their pay and conditions.

Birmingham local government branch members voted by a 76% majority for the strike, which will take place on 30 June.

News of the action was greeted with cheers at the union’s conference in Manchester today, during a debate in which delegates voiced their determination to defeat the ConDem coalition.

Graham Horne of Birmingham local government branch told conference that the city council had been led by a ConDem coalition for six years – and that the city’s public services had been “squeezed of funding” long before the government announced its austerity cuts.

Those services will lose £330m over the next three years. “Birmingham is known as the second city,” said Mr Horne, “but it is second to none in terms of cuts.”

Adding insult to injury, the authority has “declared war on staff” with what has become known as the Martini Contract, because it will allow council bosses to change or reduce working hours as and when they feel like it, forcing employees to work “any time, any place, anywhere”.

The contract will also lead to thousands of workers losing pay, and affect such conditions as weekend and shift pay.

Conference condemned the government for “mounting an ideological attack on the public sector disguised as financial necessity” – an attack that was being implemented “with relish” by coalition councils across the country.

Delegates agreed on the need to build an effective anti-cuts coalition with the TUC, other unions, trade union councils, community groups, services users and the public, and to resist attacks on hard-won terms and conditions.

It was also agreed to publicise wherever possible the role of the Liberal Democrats in implementing those cuts.

As Mr Horne told delegates: “The future is not orange. The future is purple and green.”

Conference also emphasised the need to build the union’s density in every workplace, if it is to counter the attacks on public services.