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Glasgow Labour leaders deluged with protests as workers strike against privatisation

Matt Dobson reports

The attempted scabbing operation by Glasgow Labour council in an effort to undermine Unison’s strike action against privatisation of ICT services has been pushed back. Thousands of emails from across the trade union and labour movement were sent to the council administration and Labour politicians in protest.

The recruitment adverts for scab labour discovered by striking ICT workers last week have not yet been acted on and are currently dormant. Management are now, for the first time since the strike action began, talking to the union. This puts Unison in a stronger position to negotiate over issues like life and limb cover during the strike action.

ICT workers and the Union will need to remain vigilant as the council may try and use other avenues to recruit workers to break the strike such as the current council ICT partnership with Serco. If the council put scab labour in the workplaces or there is evidence roles are being replaced through the firewall, the union would be quite correct in bringing out all 230 workers on indefinite strike action in response as a first step.

Protests should still be made to the Labour council and Labour politicians over the ICT privatisation and their anti-union tactics. Solidarity should also be sent to the ICT workers and Glasgow Unison and the below motion passed in trade union branches.

Outrageously however, and turning their backs on the wave of protest from the labour and trade union movement, all ten Labour councillors on the council executive voted the privatisation proposal through again this week.

Socialist Party Scotland and Socialist Party members have been mobilising across the trade union, labour and anti-austerity movement to protest against the Labour council’s anti-trade union scabbing operation and the privatisation, as well as building solidarity behind the strike of the ICT workers. Our members raised the issue at the Unison NEC and the Unison Scotland Council who both gave full support for the strike action. The Unison Labour Link also gave support and threatened to withdraw funding from Labour unless the council withdraw a remark made by a senior officer that privatisation would make dealing with industrial action easier.

The two month-long planned strike by 39 Glasgow Unison ICT workers against the privatisation of their and their colleagues jobs by the Labour council has concluded its first week with daily lively pickets and protests. Strikers braved minus temperatures to picket from last Friday.

Sending a message

The 39 determined strikers were joined by over 200 of ICT colleagues in a mass protest outside Wednesday’s Labour group meeting. Workers sang Wham’s Last Christmas to the Glasgow council Labour group.

“Last Christmas you gave us your word, But the very next day, you took it away.

This year to save us from tears. We’re taking industrial action.

This council is twice as fly. It’s selling IT services to CGI.

Tell me Frankie do you recognise me? The council privatising doesn’t surprise me.”

This was a reference to their hard work in Christmas 2015 when the council’s ICT system broke down. ICT worker Lorna told the socialist: “It’s important we all came out today to support our strikers, the pressure the council are trying to force on them and the union is disgusting”.

Rob, ICT Unison steward from the City Park site, spoke to the protest. “The importance of what the council tried to do this week with the scab recruitment needs to be recognised. But also look at the response from trade unionists across the country and internationally emailing their protests. The council have been inundated, This dispute is being watched and we have massive public support. Whatever happens tomorrow, we need to fight on!”

Another striker told protestors through the megaphone he had been a Labour voter all his life and an active election campaign supporter but this dispute had led him to break from the party. It’s a message that should be addressed by Jeremy Corbyn who has not spoken up against the actions of the Labour council, despite calls to do so by Glasgow Unison. One of the “Corbyn supporting” councillors who is involved with Momentum, Matt Kerr, voted for the privatisation at the council executive.

Socialists targeted

It’s clear from the constant attacks in the press that the leaders of Glasgow City Unison and their 10,000 strong membership are being specifically singled out for attack by council officials and the Labour leadership. This is not a surprise as Glasgow Unison have been intransigent and uncompromising over a number of years in defence of members terms and conditions, pay and in opposition to Labour’s implementation of Tory austerity in the city. The current major battle over ICT privatisation should be seen in this context.

The SNP, the main council opposition, have placed amendments before the executive which have had the effect of disrupting the drive towards ICT privatisation. While the Greens have explicitly opposed privatisation, the SNP have raised “concerns” about the process rather than outrightly opposing and committing to reverse it.

Both the SNP and the Greens have not committed to reverse the ICT privatisation, or refuse to implement any council cuts. This means they cannot be seen as a principled anti-austerity pro-trade union alternative. It should be remembered that the SNP and the Greens only amended Labour’s massive cuts budget in March. with a budget proposal that included a slightly smaller level of austerity.

The SNP in coalition with Labour in Edinburgh backed the privatisation of ICT services over to CGI, the Canadian company in the running for the Glasgow contract. An SNP-led Glasgow council would implement austerity rather than fight it and would inevitably come into conflict with the trade unions.

The Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), including Socialist Party Scotland and the RMT transport workers union, will be standing fighting trade unionists and anti-austerity activists against all cuts and privatisation in the forthcoming council elections in May 2017.

Come to the Scottish TUSC conference on 25th February 1pm-4pm Renfield St Stephens Centre, Bath Street, Glasgow