Council workers to strike for another 3 days over Tower Hamlets new work contracts

Protest outside housing offices in Roman Road... at the height of Coronavrus emergency. Picture: Uni

Protest outside housing offices in Roman Road... at the height of Coronavrus emergency. Picture: Unison - Credit: Unison

Council workers are coming out on strike again this week across the East End over the controversial new Tower Hamlets employment contracts brought in during the pandemic emergency.

Unison pickets. Picture: Unison

Unison pickets. Picture: Unison - Credit: Unison

The three-day walk-out affecting most public services starts Thursday and continues Friday and next Monday.

Pickets are expected outside the Town Hall in Blackwall, Whitechapel Idea Store and the Bethnal Green housing office in Roman Road.

It is being supported in an open letter from 57 Labour councillors right across London attacking the Labour authority for imposing new contracts on July 6 by terminating employment and rehiring the same staff — or face having to quit.

The letter from members of 20 other local authorities says: “We are in the midst of one of the gravest health crises we have ever faced. Council workers have been at the very forefront of our response to Covid-19.

Protest at new council employment contracts being imposed last month. Picture: Unison

Protest at new council employment contracts being imposed last month. Picture: Unison - Credit: Unison

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“We are deeply concerned that a Labour administration in Tower Hamlets is using the Conservatives’ Trade Union and Labour Relations Act where workers are sacked and rehired on different contracts to implement its Tower Rewards scheme, driving down the terms and conditions of its workers.”

The letter is backed by six MPs including Poplar’s Apsana Begum and Labour’s former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell calling on the mayor to “re-engage and negotiate” with the Unison trade union. It is signed by 56 councillors from other areas as well as Mile End councillor Puru Miah following an earlier letter from 11 Tower Hamlets councillors last month calling for renegotiations.

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Unison is pressing for the stalled negotiations that have been going on for 18 months to be restarted, despite the controversial new contracts being imposed on July 6 which it says reduce any redundancy pay with looming job cuts on the horizon.

Unison’s branch chief John McGloughlin was refused the chance to address the mayor’s cabinet meeting last week on the grounds of precedence, even though he had done just that last summer on the same issue.

Frontline council workers protest outside the town hall. Picture: Unison

Frontline council workers protest outside the town hall. Picture: Unison - Credit: Unison

“It’s time the Labour mayor talked constructively to reach resolution,” he told the East London Advertiser. “Instead, draconian measures are being used where our employment contracts are terminated and new ones imposed. We have to take it or leave it.”

The council has been discussing changing work conditions with staff and unions since January 2019. But talks at the government’s conciliation service Acas finally failed on June 18 this year.

Mayor John Biggs insists: “I respect and have worked closely with our unions for decades as a lifelong trade unionist.

“I am of course also a council leader and we need negotiation recognising that we cannot always agree on everything.”

He offers to speak to Labour party colleagues about “why these changes have been seen as necessary”.

The town hall urged the unions to “come back so we can swiftly find a solution”. But that never happened.

Unison was poised to strike on April 13 just before the lockdown, when the new contracts were originally due to start, but postponed any action because of the pandemic emergency.

The authority backed down at the 11th hour and delayed the switch to July 6, hoping Covid was over by then.

All three council unions including Unite and GMB reject the new contracts, but only Unison is taking this latest action which will affect most services. .

Councillors signing the latest letter from 55 Labour councillors across London, including 14 from Haringey alone, are:

Barking/Dagenham: Lee Waker

Bexley: Dave Putson

Brent: Abdirazak Abdi, Jumbo Chan, Claudia Hector, Daniel Kennelly

Camden: Leo Cassarani, Simon Pearson, Ranjit Singh

Croydon: Chris Clark

Ealing: Theresa Byrne, Lewis Cox

Enfield: Tolga Aramaz, Anne Brown, Margaret Greer

Greenwich: John Fahy, Gary Parker, David Stanley

Hackney: Michelle Gregory, Clare Joseph

Haringey: Daniel Stone, Mark Blake, Gideon Bull, James Chiriyankandath, Eldridge Culverwell, Makbule Gunes, Mahir Demir, Mike Hakata, Kirsten Hearn, Emine Ibrahim, Sarah James, Khaled Moyeed, Noah Tucker, Matt White

Harrow: Pamela Fitzpatrick

Havering: Carole Beth

Hillingdon: Lynne Allen, Lindsay Bliss, Janet Gardner, Stuart Mathers, John Oswell

Kensington/Chelsea: Emma Dent Coad

Islington: Santiago Bell-Bradford, Phil Graham, Sue Lukes, Matt Nathan

Lewisham: Alan Hall, Luke Sorba

Newham: Sasha Das Gupta, Anamul Islam

Redbridge: Rosa Gomez, Paul Merry

Southwark: James McAsh

Tower Hamlets: Puru Miah

Wandsworth: Maurice McLeod, Paula Walker

Westminster: Maggie Carman

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