Social worker strike could end in court

A BITTER row has broken out between a trade union and Kirklees Council over a planned strike by the district’s social workers.

Unison has said that its workers will walk out for 24 hours from midnight on Friday, January 27.

Kirklees have threatened the trade union with a court injunction if they go ahead with the children’s social work teams strike.

The council’s interim deputy head of legal services, John Chapman, wrote a four-page letter to Unison bosses stating the planned strike was unlawful.

They believe that the ballot taken by Unison, which the union said saw 79 per cent of workers vote to take industrial action, is not an accurate representation of workers’ views.

Of the 75 votes cast, 59 were in favour of voting ‘yes’ while 15 voted ‘no’ and one ballot paper was spoiled.

The council letter states: “It is apparent that a very small number of Kirklees employees voted in favour of industrial action.

“Any steps taken by the union or its officials to induce your members to breach their contracts of employment or to interfere in the performance of those contracts will be unlawful.

“We are drawing these matters to your attention before pursuing the matter in court.”

Kirklees gave Unison a deadline of 4pm on Monday to call off the strike before seeking immediate legal action.

However, the trade union have stood firm, saying they are confident that the ballot is correct.

Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison branch secretary, said: “We have taken legal advice and will be going ahead with the strike action as planned.

“No council in the UK has taken out an injunction in this way.

“Any High Court action will be robustly defended and we would urge the council to concentrate on the dispute rather than High Court injunctions.

“It is a sad day when a council seeks to use legislation specifically designed to remove trade union rights and to stop trade unions from defending its members.”

Mr Holmes said that social workers wanted urgent action on issues including workloads, bad management, bullying, IT systems, travel, working environments and pay.

He said if Kirklees continued with their legal bid, Unison would consider balloting its full 6,000 members.

The strike threat by Unison comes as Kirklees children’s services department was plunged further into crisis after its director quit just six weeks on from a scathing Ofsted report.

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