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Issue 51

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Picketline Report

On 3rd August, Glasgow Social Work staff took unofficial action in response to the heavy handed actions of management who had suspended three workers.

Social Work staff had previously taken a decision to boycott the work associated with unfilled vacancies and to refuse to co-operate with the transfer of the Home Help service to a new department of Cleaning & Domestic Care Services, believed to be a step towards privatisation.

Management's response to the action was to pick on two Home Care workers in the Govan office and on an admin. worker in Dennistoun office and bully them into submission. They refused to carry out management orders. They were immediately suspended without pay and threatened with further disciplinary action.

Across the city angry workplaces walked out on unofficial action in their support.

Management's initial response was to announce that they could sustain a prolonged strike and refused to back down. Unison, nationally were totally silent on the action, failing even to criticise the tactics of management. Meanwhile the press went into overdrive to condemn the strike and to demonise the strike committee in an attempt to divert from the real issues.

Defiantly, the workers resolved to fight on, demanding the unconditional reinstatement of their colleagues, with daily meetings of 2,000 strikers in assemblies. It was through participation at these mass meetings that confidence & strength grew, with residential and day care sections joining in solidarity.

On Friday 7th August the Labour controlled Glasgow City Council used the Tory anti-strike legislation to obtain a court order declaring the action illegal and threatening to sue the Glasgow Unison union branch and strike committee members for the costs of the strike. At this stage the national union repudiated the action of the strikers and wrote to all strikers asking them to return to work.

Faced with no support from their national leaders, legal action from their employer, and damning media coverage, a mass meeting on 10th August resolved a return to work.The meeting then marched en masse to the City Chambers and then several miles across the river to Govan Due to their solidarity, the three suspended workers were reinstated and threats of disciplinary action withdrawn.

The Union held a ballot which defused the mood leading to a slender majority against further action against the transfer of the home helps. Despite this outcome, the dispute illustrated that solidarity and determination can breach legal constraints on workers. Further battles on privatisation lie ahead.

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