‘We haven’t sacked anyone’ Tower Hamlets boss insists as 3rd council workers’ strike breaks out
PUBLISHED: 19:40 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:47 14 August 2020
A town hall boss has hit hack at union claims that 4,000 council workers have been sacked all over the East End in order to rehire them with worse employment terms.
The blast comes as Unison public service trade union’s third strike began today against Tower Hamlets Council’s new working conditions that were imposed last month.
More pickets are being staged tomorrow and Monday outside the town hall, the Bethnal Green housing offices in Roman Road and Mile End Hospital.
“We have now moved to the new terms and conditions with no job losses despite reduced budget,” the council’s chief executive Will Tuckley insisted.
“The changes have been brought by new digital technology and devices changing the way people live their lives. Every organisation needs to change to meet the needs of customers and workforce.”
The hit-back comes in the face of mounting opposition against the Labour administration from Labour councillors across London who sent an open letter to the mayor this week slamming the way the new contracts were imposed on July 6 in the middle of the pandemic when front-line workers were stretched just keeping essential services going.
The letter 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 workers are sacked and rehired on different contracts, driving down the terms and conditions of the workers.”
It is backed by six MPs including Poplar’s Apsana Begum and Labour’s former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell calling on the mayor to renegotiate with the unions now that job cuts are looming.
Council budgets have been hit by the pandemic, the town hall points out.
Chief executive Tuckley stressed: “It is important we make the most of the money we have. That includes investing in our existing staff rather than those who leave.”
The current terms and conditions are “out of date and not supporting the flexible approach to services”, according to Tuckley. His new terms include longer holidays for most staff and pay-rises for hard-to-fill posts like social workers.
But the money to pay for it has to come from somewhere, like reducing severance pay.
Unison’s branch chief John McGloughlin insisted: “Draconian measures are being used where our contracts are terminated and new ones imposed. We have to take it or leave it.”
Strike days last month had just 15 per cent of the workforce out, according to the council, with numbers never more than 634 on any one day out of 4,000. The day-to-day figures on nine strike days show a gradual rise, peaking on July 7, then falling back slightly.
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