Council workers' strike threat

Issue 436

SCHOOLS could close for five days and bins go unemptied if a threatened strike by council workers goes ahead next month.



The public service union Unison is to ballot its members on strike action over Kirklees Council’s mass redundancy plans.



In what could spark a winter of discontent, union leaders are gearing up to fight council plans to axe 1,500 jobs.



As Government spending cuts bite, Kirklees is looking to slash its nonschool workforce from 11,200 to 9,700. Already 400 staff have taken voluntary redundancy or early retirement.



The Kirklees branch of Unison will ballot its 8,500 members on industrial action between September 9 and 29.



If members vote for strike action there could be a fiveday stoppage in midOctober.



That would mean thousands of teaching assistants, dinner ladies, binmen and care workers staying at home.



The last Kirklees Council strike in June 2008 saw services in the district paralysed with 80 schools shut and a massive backlog of waste collection which took weeks to clear.Council chiefs are now seeking compulsory redundancies and Unison is angry over the socalled ‘Bradford Formula’, the method  which council officers will use to decide which workers go.



The mathematical equation gives every employee a score based on the number of sick days and length of sickness absences.



The formula is used to remove staff whose absences impact on productivity.
Kirklees Unison branch secretary Paul Holmes said use of the formula was unfair as it was being applied retrospectively. Neither was it used during a recent management restructure.



Mr Holmes said it was wrong that ordinary workers would have to pay for the country’s financial crisis with their jobs, through no fault of their own.
He also believed the public of Kirklees was “totally supportive” of council workers.



Kirklees chief executive Adrian Lythgo called for the union to keep talking with council bosses.



In a statement he said: “We are working through a major change programme and are including the union at every stage of the process.
“We would hope to avoid any strike action because if a strike where to happen the people who would suffer most are the residents and businesses in Kirklees.



“We would be disappointed if the union moved to a strike ballot when we feel we have not fully discussed all other potential solutions with them.
“The trade unions are aware that there is a statutory process we must follow in restructuring the organisation and our workforce, which means we cannot always move in the way which best suits them.



“However, we would urge the Unison leadership once again to continue to work to a solution through discussion rather than depriving members of the public of the services they rely on.”



Schools in Kirklees break up for halfterm on Friday October 22.
ends

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