With Unison council workers going on strike on the 21st, now is a good time to write to our local newspapers expressing our support for their actions to defend their pay and conditions, and our services.
A series of positive letters in the Birmingham Mail, Post or Sutton Observer will have a couple of effects – firstly, it makes it more likely for the papers to cover the strike itself, and to do so in a positive manner. Secondly it will encourage GMB, UCATT and Unite council workers to vote for strike action in their ballots. It may also encourage other public sector workers to strike, or non-unionised members to join up.
And of course these letters will also tell workers going on strike that they have the support of the people of the city, the people who through council tax, actually pay their wages and pay for the provision of the services.
Email addresses for the papers are:
Whilst we might provide a form letter if we were asking you to write to MPs, for this a form letter is no use, each letter needs to be personally written.. but here are some facts you might wish to include, that have been mentioned by Graeme Horn at our meeting last week, Caroline Johnson at previous meetings, or from Unison newsletters. These are real examples of pay cuts that will happen if the new contract takes effect.
- Mrs S, currently on around £14,000/year will lost £1,780 (12%);
- Mrs B, on 19k, will lose £3,662.40
- Mrs F, who will lose 30% of their pay – taking a whopping £4,453.35 pay cut from a £14,621.59 salary.
- One home carer who is currently on around £22,000/year has been told he will be losing £6,000/year under the new contract – a 36% pay cut!
- A home care assistant on £14,829 will lose £2,270
- A library assistant will lose £1,100 from a salary of £10,980
You can find more examples on page two of this Unison newsletter (PDF)
In addition to pay cuts, there are changes in conditions you can mention. This contract will mean that workers can be made to work any job (at their pay grade), doing any hours, at any location in the city.
This means that someone who signed up to a job in a library near their home, working on weekdays to fit around their children, could be told to go and work in a housing office, across the other side of the city on weekends.
Condition changes such as these are intolerable, and represent something totally different to the contracts that council workers signed up to. Whilst it may be acceptable for someone to choose a job whose location, hours or even duties change with no notice, it cannot be acceptable to force those conditions onto an existing workforce.
It is hard to believe that people with a family, friends and social network around them would be happy to work under such conditions and insecurity. We are often told that public sector workers do their jobs because they are a vocation, but how can you have a vocation when your job role might change at no notice?
Changes to pay and conditions such as these will only serve to worsen the provision of council services, by acting as a disincentive for people to apply for roles. In many cases, it may actually make it impossible for someone to work for the council, as they made need the security of a set location and hours in order to fit with their commitments outside of work (such as bringing up a family – something which the ConDem coalition nationally, if not locally, are very keen on).
I could probably have a rant about how these changes will not help to build stronger family units, but perhaps one of you could think about phrasing that in a constructive manner for your letter to the newspaper?
If you are a regular user of any council service – and most of us are, in one way or another – you could write a letter from that perspective – that you support the strike, because you recognise the attack on the service you use that these pay and condition changes represent. These kinds of letters are always good. You might think to comment on how the refuse workers cleaned up the city after the riots – and this is how we reward them!
And if you want to mention the Liberal Democrat conference demonstration on Sunday 18th, that’d be grand.
So get writing!