Interview with North East Community Homeless Caseworkers, Lesley and Mary.
70 Unison members in Glasgow have been on strike since March 31 in a long-running dispute with the council over re-grading and fair pay.
How are you feeling about the strike?
Mary: I’m feeling elated with the support we are getting from the public and that our pickets are 100%, we are all in it to win it! But I’m angry and disappointed with the Labour council who can’t even be bothered talking to us.
Lesley: I’m delighted by the support from our own colleagues who aren’t involved in the dispute but are being pressured by management into taking our work covering our duties under duress. They were threatened with suspension without pay. And the admin staff.
Mary: My friends and family are also in total support, saying keep out on strike.
Lesley: It’s a sacrifice as we are both single parents. I’ve explained it to my 15-year-old daughter about how we will have less money but she’s well up for the fight.
Mary: I’ve been putting mine through university so it’s a strain. It’s a commitment but we all have to be united. It’s about parity with other workers and trade union principles. On our wage I struggle to pay the bills.
How important is it for workers to support each other in struggle?
Lesley: Fellow strikers Jennifer and Allan spoke at the porters’ rally in Dundee. I’m going to speak in Brighton at an NHS Unison meeting. It’s been a big boost to have had all the messages of support from trade unionists and workers across the country – keep them coming! And we want to know about their disputes. We aren’t on our own.
It’s disgraceful the way bosses treat low paid workers. The majority of the workforce are women.
I think it’s really important women are fully involved, it’s one of the reasons the strike is really strong.
‘This strike is about austerity’
Interview with Chris, Unison steward of North East team.
How is the strike going?
We have had fantastic support from the public and the picket lines across the city are solid. We have been rallying outside the council on Thursdays and marching round social management’s offices making a lot of racket. It’s visible to the public and also gives a message to management we are here and we aren’t going anywhere.
Last week we made so much noise they could hear us inside the full council meeting. Bizarrely one of the Labour councillors thanked us for the work we do! But they won’t talk to the union.
This week we brought a negotiating table outside the council city chambers saying: if you won’t come to the negotiating table we will bring it to you. This indefinite strike is a last resort as it’s vulnerable people we are working with.
Was the response of the Labour council expected?
We never expected them to concede on day one, but you would have thought they might be concerned enough about the welfare of service users to at least talk.
Their official position is a contradiction. They are insisting we should be on the current grade but they acknowledge we do tasks that should be carried out by the grade above. We even got that out of the council committee we presented our case to, basically saying: ‘yes you do these tasks but you can’t be paid for them.’
Ultimately that comes down to the austerity agenda they have committed to. Social work and mental health service cuts have made the situation worse. Provision for desperate people, the most destitute, is being decimated.
What’s the strategy of the union going forward?
We have a strike committee that’s organised picket lines which remain 100% solid. All those on strike are playing a role.
We are learning as activists. We have been discussing how we are up against it with the anti-trade union legislation! We are an example of how to fight collectively and industrially against the cuts.