Staff vote to strike after threat to change work contracts, says UNISON

Thousands of Tower Hamlets Council staff have voted to take industrial action to stop managers forcing through contract changes, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

Council employees decided overwhelmingly to walk out over changes due to take effect in mid-April.

UNISON is now working with staff to determine the timing and scale of their action.

Council staff are angry at being forced to accept new contracts that will affect their pay and make it easier for managers to alter the way they work. A proposed reduction in severance pay has increased fears that job losses are on the cards, says UNISON.

Low-paid workers, who’ve missed out on a decade of pay increases due to austerity cuts,  will be hardest hit, the union said. Plans to reduce travel allowances and out of hours payments will disproportionately affect staff on the lowest pay scales.

Employees who refuse to accept the new contracts are being threatened with the sack and the prospect of being re-employed on the new terms. The council’s aggressive approach has bred fear and anxiety and left staff with no option but to vote to strike, the union said.

UNISON London Regional Organiser Fran Allton said: “The lowest paid staff will be among the most affected by the council’s plans. They’ll lose money, time and job security.

“Over the past decade frontline workers running essential services have missed out on pay increases because of the government’s harsh public sector pay policy. To hit them in the pocket again and treat them with such disregard is both cruel and short-sighted.”

Notes to editors

– New council contracts would include a clause meaning staff could be asked to work anywhere in the borough, with little notice, while travel allowances are also being cut.

– Enhanced pay for ‘out of hours’ working previously started at 8pm but would start at 9pm, so staff working in the evenings will earn less.

– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

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