Tower Hamlets dispute continues as council staff set to be balloted for further strike action

Monday 28 June 2021
For immediate release

Tower Hamlets dispute continues as council staff set to be balloted for further strike action

Reablement workers, environmental health officers and social workers will be among Tower Hamlets council staff set to be balloted for further industrial action as the ‘Tower Rewards’ dispute continues​, says UNISON.

The Labour​-run council ‘fired and rehired’ most of its workforce on the new controversial contract last summer during the height of the pandemic.

The imposed contract ​has resulted in cuts to ​severance pay and other allowances , and ​has led to increased inequality by giving pay rises mainly to those at top​, says the union. ​

Despite ​council claims that ‘Tower Rewards’ ​would not be a precursor to mass redundancies ​at the local authority, ​UNISON is concerned that dozens of staff ​are now at risk of redundancy because of restructurings started after the contract was imposed. Staff made redundant will receive substantially less than they would have previously, ​UNISON added.

Tower Hamlets made a new offer​, which was rejected in May 2021 by council staff. The ballot opened ​last week and will run for a month.

UNISON assistant branch secretary Kerie Anne said: ​“Tower Hamlets staff have worked tirelessly through the pandemic, and this is how the council treats them.

​”The authority’s use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics more commonly associated with dodgy employment practices in the private sector is a stain o​n the council’s reputation that it will ​struggle to shake off.

“​A recent consultation ​shows staff remain angry about their treatment. That’s why they​’ve asked to be balloted again for strike action​. ​In the meantime, UNISON remains open to discussions with the council to ​try to resolve the dispute.”

Notes to editors:
– Publicity leaflets can be found here and here
– This ​latest strike ballot follows ​nine days of action taken in July and August 2020. Socially distanced pickets took place outside Albert Jacobs House, John Onslow House, Mile End Hospital, Mulberry Place, Poplar Idea Store, Tower Hamlets Car Pound (Commercial R​oad) and Whitechapel Idea Store. Photos are available on request.
– UNISON’S ​former general ​secretary Dave Prentis wrote an open letter to Mayor John Biggs​, which can be found here. For background to the dispute click here, and here for the branch newsletter about the first Tower Rewards strike.
– 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 the public, voluntary and private sectors. ​The Tower Hamlets branch ​is the largest in UNISON​’s London region.

Media contact:
Emma Davey M: 07432 733187 E: