Thomas Bridge 02 April 2015

Boroughs face staff strike spree as union ‘draws line in sand’

A spate of strikes is due to sweep through London boroughs in coming days as staff walk out over pay and privatisation fears.

Hackney, Bromley and Croydon councils will all face staff protests this week, with trade union Unite claiming it is now ‘drawing a line in the sand’ against local government austerity.

Employees who transport disabled children to school and play clubs at Hackney Council will today stage 24 hours of strike action over fears of a potential 50% cuts to pay.

Unite is planning a further service stoppage on 16 April against the measures, which it claims could see salaries fall from £24,000 to £12,000.

However Hackney said it was ‘no longer able to justify’ the £75,000 yearly cost of guaranteed overtime for these drivers, with changes to working hours reflected in a pay reduction of up to 20%. The borough has now offered employees either voluntary redundancy or a package of lump sums and pay protection for those who remain.

A council spokesman said the service provided by Transport Solutions would ‘not be affected’ by the changes.

A separate strike has been called on 16 April at Croydon Council, similarly involving Unite members who transfer disabled children. The trade union claims Impact – the private company which runs passenger transport services for the town hall – is refusing to pay workers the living wage of £9.15 an hour.

Croydon LBC said it would work to ensure any strikes cause ‘minimal disruption’ while negotiating ‘with our contractor to put a variety of contingency arrangements in place’.

Impact Group was unavailable to be reached for comment.

The strikes came as Unite members at Bromley Council announced they would be walking out for two days from 7 April over ‘mass privatisation’ of services, cuts to pay and conditions and withdrawal of facility time for the union branch secretary.

Action will involve employees at libraries, adult services and parks at separate points throughout the 48 hours.

A council spokesperson said the authority was facing ‘unpalatable’ saving demands of £50m over the next four years and would ‘continue to examine every single one our services and cost pressures to find the most effective and efficient ways of delivering’. Bromley added that there had been no pay cuts for members or staff.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: ‘Unite is drawing a line in the sand against privatisation and austerity in local government. Council services should be for the public good – and not as a cash cow for the private companies benefiting from lucrative outsourcing contracts.’

He added that the strikes were ‘vivid, living, breathing examples’ of why the trade union’s campaign against local government austerity ‘is so important’.

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