UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sefton UNISON fights £38m cut backs‏

Sefton UNISON Local Government Branch is fighting back against the 1,000 threatened job losses and £38m frontloading cuts next financial year. For the first time ever, local branches of the GMB and Unite have joined UNISON in a local dispute and a recent indicative ballot of all three unions returned a massive 90% response in favour of industrial action.

The dispute, relating to lack of meaningful consultation, cuts to jobs and devastation of public services has led to some tremendous joint work between the local UNISON Branch, Regional and National Officers who have provided detailed analysis of Sefton’s alleged budget crisis and the provided the local Branch Officers with the confidence to challenge in the complex world of Local Government Finances.

Some of the economic ‘ammunition’ we have discovered is such as:

· £300m spent on 2 contracts to private companies that have failed to deliver one single new job (despite the promise of 450)

· Penalty Clause for failure to produce any new jobs whatsoever – a meagre £22,000

· £8m owed to Council by company that took over Housing Stock (Campaign against LSVT that led to UNISON Officers and Stewards being sacked and suspended!). The Council are having to take the company to court to retrieve the money!

· Creative presentation of the Council’s ‘controllable’ budget as being £200m, whereas their annual budget is £600m including Prudential Borrowing that can always be extended or re-negotiated

· Creative presentation of how many staff the Council actually employ – if they wish to inflate the figures and related costs, they include schools and assert the figure is over 11,000. If they wish to deflate the figures they present a figure minus schools’ staff, minus temporary contracts, minus fixed term contracts and externally funded posts and suggest the total staff number is 4,250!!!

· Savings that can be achieved by creative use of the annual 500 turnover of staff were initially hidden

· Use of Insurance reserves the Council hold ‘for a rainy day’ continues to be masked!

· Use of School reserves to pay for school-based services remains a battle.

Parallel to the expert financial guidance, the Branch has led on the move towards industrial action and resisting these attacks by increasing its communications with the membership and from the membership to elected members and local MPs, setting up more workplace meetings, joint working with a local UNISON Health Branch as well as the local PCS Branch, getting Regional help in to ensure RMS is ‘Ballot appropriate’ and working closely with Unite and GMB, as well as some Community Groups with whom there is a common objective. This increase in activity has been reflected in the amount (and nature) of the media coverage that is being allocated to this growing dispute.

A mass lobby of Full Council has been called for this Thursday (16th December) at 4pm and will be accompanied by each of the three local unions seeking a formal ballot for Industrial Action. As one of the leaders of the Branch, it has been fantastic to see first hand a co-ordinated fight back along parallel lines, economic debate and direct action.

It is an old adage in politics that ‘unity is strength’ and we have certainly had to focus on what unites rather than divides us with other unions and local groups, but this has meant the employer has failed to divide us and, for the first time, is having to respond to a local union movement, not just a fragmented version of it.

Regular postings are made available on our website http://www.seftonunison.co.uk/

Glen Williams,
Branch Secretary,
Sefton UNISON.