Determined and unified action pay

images/stories/homelessstaff.jpgThree days of strike action by at least 80 Glasgow City Council Homelessness social workers has resulted in an important victory. The Unison member whose suspension by management on Friday sparked the walkout has been reinstated. Social Work management have also agreed to draw up new caseload management proposals within four weeks that Unison stewards will have an input in drafting.

The issue of workload was a key factor in the dispute that led to the suspension and then a walkout by union members from the Glasgow East Homelessness office last Friday afternoon. By Monday morning staff had walked off the job at the other four offices in Glasgow. They stayed out until Wednesday afternoon when the workers went back united after hearing that the suspension was lifted and management were prepared to engage in real discussions on workload.

Glasgow City Unison has made clear that a formal ballot for action will take place unless real changes take place in workload. Striking workers told us that on average they were handling 50 cases per staff member, resulting in a deteriorating service and demoralisation.

Scandalously, Glasgow City Council, a Labour council, had on Tuesday evening lettered all the staff threatening dismissal unless they went back. They had also hired a QC to move for an interdict against the unofficial strike.

The fact that important concessions have been won underlines the importance of militant and decisive action by workers, even action that breaks the anti-union laws. Glasgow City Unison refused to repudiate the strike, a demand pushed by Council management after threatening to make the union liable for the costs of the strike.

As one striker told us: "We’ve proved that by standing together we can force management to listen to our concerns. After a year of a formal grievance on caseloads, and frankly being ignored, we now have the management listening."

A Unison member also thanked those that had sent the hundreds of messages of support that has come in from across the UK, Ireland, the US and even Turkey. "They were a great boost to workers and helped keep up the morale"

The lessons of this action show that determined and unified action can win victories.

Committee for a workers' International publications


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