Tower Hamlets delays plan to sack and rehire more than 4,000 workers over Easter weekend

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 April 2020

Tower Hamlets Council has abandoned plans to sack and rehire key workers over the Easter weekend. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Council has abandoned plans to sack and rehire key workers over the Easter weekend. Picture: Mike Brooke


Plans to sack more than 4,000 workers and rehire them over the Easter weekend have been pushed back.

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse. Picture: Mike BrookeApsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse. Picture: Mike Brooke

Staff including street cleaners, social workers, care workers and teachers supporting disabled children had expected to be made redundant and rehired by Tower Hamlets Council on changed terms and conditions on Easter Monday.

But the local authority has delayed the changes, dubbed Tower Rewards, until early summer to give workers more time to think.

A spokeswoman from Tower Hamlets Council said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the council and our staff as we focus on delivering critical services and supporting our vulnerable residents.

“As a result, we have decided to delay the implementation of Tower Rewards.

“We want to thank all of our staff for their continued dedication to keeping vital public services going during these unprecedented times.”

The announcement follows publication of two letters, the first signed by 138 trade union secretaries, Labour Party officers and members of the public.

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The second saw 12 doctors call on mayor John Biggs and council chief executive Will Tuckley to “do the right thing” and suspend ending employees’ contracts until after the coronavirus crisis and then resume negotiations.

The medics urged neighbours to show solidarity by clapping for council workers as well as the NHS “to stop the devastation”.

The doctors’ letter states: “In Tower Hamlets and all over the country, council workers are a crucial part of the front line of our fight against the devastation to our community caused by Covid-19.

“Their vital role in public health cannot be overestimated.”

Labour members, trade union secretaries and neighbours in their letter claim the council is attempting to impose new contracts in order to reduce existing employment rights.

“If staff continue their vital work, it will be on substantially worse terms and conditions that they overwhelmingly rejected in individual ballots conducted by their unions,” they state.

Unison had decided not to act on its members’ ballot to strike following the coronavirus pandemic.

Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum also advised Mr Tuckley in March to postpone negotiations, arguing with others that to do so would look like the council was using the crisis to force through cost-cutting measures instead of focusing on the health emergency.

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