Council workers to strike for another 3 days over Tower Hamlets new work contracts
PUBLISHED: 18:34 11 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:44 14 August 2020
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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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