Scotland: Glasgow Council homeless workers’ unofficial strike action spreads

Need to build widespread strike action over workload, pay and working conditions

An unofficial strike action by Glasgow City Council Homeless service workers spread across the city yesterday (17/09/13). All five Homelessness teams, more than 60 Unison union members, refused to go into work in support of a member suspended on Friday in the Glasgow East office. This suspension by management relates to a longstanding grievance by staff at growing and unacceptable caseloads. Strikers told the Socialist (newspaper of the SPS) today that the average caseload is more than 50 clients per worker.

There is huge anger at this impossible situation for staff, which management and the council have done nothing to address. The suspension of a Unison member last Friday was the last straw. Workers are demanding the lifting of the suspension; more staff to deal with the workload; and a cap on the number of cases each staff member has to deal with at any one time.

Striking workers held a determined and enthusiastic rally outside the council HQ yesterday lunchtime, demanding immediate action to resolve the growing crisis in the service.

The Director of Social Work at Glasgow City Council last tonight sent a letter to more than 400 Unison members which included the following:

"This unlawful industrial action is completely unacceptable and those involved are liable to be dismissed if it continues."

"We are fully aware of the pressures on the homelessness service and have been taking steps to address staff concerns. We were scheduled to meet Unison to resolve those concerns on Wednesday, but there is no prospect of that happening against the backdrop of an illegal strike.

"Unlawful industrial action is putting unnecessary pressure on the homelessness service and if this strike is not formally repudiated by Unison immediately we will consider seeking damages from them."

Huge anger

There is huge anger relating to the intolerable pressure on staff in the Homeless service, across the Social Work department and many other departments in the Labour-run Glasgow City Council. This is a direct result of the thousands of jobs losses in the last few years resulting in increasing work pressures on fewer and fewer members of staff.

This action by Unison members is to be applauded and underlines the need to build widespread strike action over workload, pay and working conditions which is becoming a huge issue across local government in Scotland. Around 37,000 jobs have been lost in Scotland from public services since 2010; a result of the Con-Dem coalition government’s austerity, as well as the refusal of the SNP-led Scottish government and local councils to fight the cuts is leading to a crisis.

Socialist Party Scotland members are doing all we can to support these workers in Glasgow and to link this battle to the need to build mass coordinated strike action against the cuts that are destroying decent public services.

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September 2013