By a Socialist Party Scotland reporter
Dundee’s social care workers have inflicted a significant defeat on the SNP-led council’s plans to slash their working conditions. Hoping to save over £1 million by forcing the 300 mainly female staff to accept split shifts, job and wage cuts, SNP councillors were forced to withdraw their proposal at the council meeting on Monday.
Facing a packed council chamber of angry union members, council officers were loudly jeered when they tried to justify the attacks by claiming split shift working would not be detrimental to health of these low paid workers.
Trade unions, Unison, GMB and Unite, had refused to accept the attacks and this leadership gave increasing confidence to their members.
Speaking inside the council meeting and to resounding cheers from the workers Jim McFarlane, branch secretary of Dundee City Unison and a Socialist Party Scotland member, said “If you go ahead with this it has implications for every single council worker – we will ballot our members across the workforce.”
Social care worker and GMB rep Susan Marnie laid bare the reality that if workers could not move onto split shifts they would be forced to accept reduced hours. losing between £300 and £350 a month.
The scandalous behaviour of the SNP council included threats to dismiss all staff and then re-engage workers on new contracts if they did not accept the changes.
Moreover, one of their leading councillors, Ken Lynn, had, the week before, raised the spectre of privatisation if the changes to employment were not made.
The big turnout of social care workers and their supporters outside and inside the council chambers, and the huge public support for their case, forced the SNP into a significant retreat. Calling a break in proceedings, the council leader John Alexander asked to meet with the unions and agreed to withdraw the proposals, pending negotiations and a new report on the service by the summer.
The growing anger among working class people in Dundee was reflected in the disgust evident from the workers, many of whom pledged never to vote for the SNP again.
The workers were jubilant following the climbdown but also determined to fight on. As Gail Wallace, Unison rep and social care worker, said: “It’s not often the council back down. Be very proud of yourselves. Union members made this happen. We have massive challenges ahead of us, with the horrendous changes management are proposing. We don’t want to go back to Victorian times of working 11 hours a day. We have to stand together.”
The attacks on this overwhelming female workforce are part of an attempt by the SNP to slash £15 million from the council budget this year. And another £40 million plus in the next two years.
The joint council trade unions demand for a no cuts budget and for councillors to help lead a struggle for a return of the £100 million stolen from Dundee since 2010 is gaining wider and wider support. Socialist Party Scotland and our members in the unions will continue to fight to offer a real fighting anti-austerity alternative to Tory, SNP and Labour cuts.
- Demand a no cuts budget. Lobby Dundee City Council budget setting meeting Thursday 22nd February 2.30pm, City Square, Dundee