Members of the GMB working at Cityclean have voted to strike with 94% in favour on a 76% turnout. It is a massive mandate - far bigger than that of any of the 54 councillors on the authority. If the strike goes ahead next month it will bring refuse collection and streetcleaning to a standstill.
Such a massive vote is true testament to the incompetence and duplicity of Brighton and Hove City Council, who now seem intent on provoking the other union at the council, Unison, into the same course of action by pretending to negotiate whilst getting ready to impose further pay cuts on more staff. Although the scale of the pay cuts facing the Cityclean workers has pushed the GMB to the fore, Unison actually has more members potentially affected.
In truth, while it is easy to blame the current Tory administration (and they certainly deserve their share with their dismal performance over the last few months), none of the parties emerge with credit from this fiasco. The issue has dragged on unresolved for 12 years. Now, well-remunerated council bosses want to impose pay cuts on the lowest-paid staff.
WE WON'T STAND FOR IT!
This afternoon, Brighton and Hove Unison issued this statement -
UNISON IN FULL SUPPORT OF GMB COLLEAGUES
The GMB ballot result announced at lunchtime today (29th October 2009), of 94% of members in Brighton and Hove Cityclean in favour of strike action, is welcomed and fully supported by UNISON (Brighton andHove Branch).
The central issue of the Council seeking to impose massive salary cuts of up to £8,000 on these staff is an issue also faced by many UNISON members in the Council. Whilst our members are not concentrated in one workplace, like the Cityclean workforce, overall it is the case that we will have in total many more staff across the Council who are faced with pay cuts of varying amounts. These totals reflect the fact that UNISON has in membership some 60%of the entire Council workforce, 3,800 in all, and those affected arein a whole range of posts including, frontline care services, ICT,Planning and so-called "back-room" services. A large proportion ofthese are relatively low-paid women workers - the very people that Equal Pay legislation was meant to positively benefit.
UNISON cannot be clear what the scale of pay cuts will be, because the Council employer cannot, or will not provide accurate figures to us, despite repeated requests. In addition,the employer has frequently altered its negotiating position, cancelled meetings at short notice and in the last few days managers have told staff in a central part of the Council that they will be "dismissed" if they refuse to sign new, worse pay, contracts.
Today,at the "eleventh hour", the City Council have made a further offer in respect of which UNISON is seeking urgent clarification and further negotiation. However,the core pay cuts still remain, along with a plain threat to ignore the two Trade Unions and go straight to staff with these proposals. This is no way to negotiate or reach agreement. The Single Status Agreement into which these negotiations fall, came into place in 1997 -the Council has prevaricated and delayed for 12 years and now wants to rush new grades into place. UNISON in a letter today has indicated to the City Council at political and senior officer level, that we will not accept an imposition of new contracts. The Branch will proceed to an immediate Strike ballot in such circumstances. Our membership will also support in every possible manner our colleagues in the GMB when they take action - there will be no division between the two Branches who already work very closely at a local level.
Alex Knutsen,UNISON Branch Secretary said
"A situation which should have been resolved through negotiation overthe last 12 years, has now reached a point where confrontation appears to be inevitable. This is very regrettable but even at this time could be recovered. However, if the Council leadership continue along this very dangerous path, UNISON members will vote for strike action to defend their colleagues in their Branch. Members are not militants but committed public sector workers forced to respond to an inept, disorganised and threatening management."
For further information please contact Alex Knutsen on 01273 249076 0r 07961025930