Council workers in Westminster are fighting back against plans to privatise thousands of jobs over the next three years.
The Tory council wants to contract out virtually all of its "customer services" to a private firm, Vertex SW1. On 27 June council workers held a one-day strike, and selective strikes and working-to-rule are ongoing.
Staff transfers under the CSI (Customer Service Initiative) are due to begin this autumn. If the plans succeed, staff will be forcibly ejected from the local government pension scheme. Pay, hours, leave, maternity provision and continuity of service will be vulnerable to unilateral change by Vertex SW1. Despite Government advice that transferred staff should have their pensions and terms and conditions protected, Westminster's Chief Executive Peter Rogers is refusing to give this assurance.
Staff in key areas of the council are now striking in rotation to put pressure on management. Two weeks ago, parking enforcement staff went on strike. As we go to press, planning administration staff are on strike and have just been joined by environmental health and noise enforcement staff.
Planning officers, already working to rule, will strike for a week from 12 August and maybe beyond that. The planning strikes are set to cause chaos for hundreds of big companies and the ultra-rich who own property in Westminster. Social services staff are considering industrial action too.
Union activists at the council say support for the strikes has been excellent. Many workers have joined the union so they can take part in the action. Union density in the planning department has risen from 73 to 96% of the workforce.
Solidarity from other sections of Unison has been impressive. Tower Hamlets Unison have donated £9,000 to the campaign. Council workers know that if Westminster gets its way, other councils will follow.
Westminster Unison says "strike action is the only way we will get what we need" and has urged every council worker to join the union and join the strikes.
Messages of solidarity to: Westminster Unison, 1st Floor, Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QP. Tel: 020 7641 2389. Fax: 020 7641 3246.