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Trade Union protest against budget cuts outside West Dunbartonshire council

Trade union rights under attack in West Dunbartonshire

Text of latest Socialist Party Scotland leaflet

Socialist Party Scotland gives full support and solidarity to the West  Dunbartonshire joint trade union’s (JTU) fight against the SNP council’s Tory-like attack on trade union facility time and budget cuts.  

Justifying this Tory-like attack on trade union representation, the council claimed it had carried out an on-line survey of employees that showed a majority did not believe they were well served by their trade unions. However, only 500 of the 5,500 council staff took part, and of those a mere 347 – 6% of the workforce – responded negatively to the skewed internet survey.

The initial proposal from council officers was to cut the current 3.5 full time union conveners to one! Now it is down to two. The unions involved are Unison, GMB, Unite and the EIS. As the JTU statement points out: “This is a direct attack on the democracy of the trade unions and will undermine our efforts to represent our members”. 

The anti-trade union approach of the SNP administration is shown by the latest statement by council leader Jonathan McColl, who calls on the unions to “get their head out of the sand”.  And this while the SNP government claims to be anti-austerity, pro-trade union and in favour of “fair work”.    

mass campaign needed

Correctly, the joint trade unions have stated that a cut to one post is a cut to all and that there will be no discussion on sharing facility time between the unions.

A mass united campaign by the trade unions alongside the community is needed placing maximum political pressure on the SNP. Already mass meetings of the workforce and now the public have begun.

Momentum should be built quickly, a local demonstration should be organised and a ballot for industrial action. The labour and trade union movement nationally, including the STUC, must respond with active support.  

The SNP council made a political choice to pass a £1m cuts budget with the support of the Tories. As well as attacking the trade union’s, the cuts include  a significant reduction in the maintenance of parks, cemeteries and other common spaces and the removal of funding for voluntary organisations in an area where poverty is rife and NHS services have been decimated.

As the JTU statement outlines, there was no need to cut services in West Dunbartonshire. According to WDC’s Annual Accounts the authority had a total reserve in the general fund of £5,063,000.

This could have been used to fill the projected funding gap. SNP council leader McColl’s response even admits the SNP have rejected the option of a no cuts budget using reserves, this he claims because people in West Dunbartonshire want a “balanced budget” and not “irresponsibility”.

no cuts budgets

Socialist Party Scotland calls for fighting no cuts budgets to be set by councils. This is supported by Unison, Unite and the GMB nationally in local government.

A no cuts budget would mean the use of all financial mechanism’s, including reserves, to halt the cuts and then launch a mass campaign to demand more funding from central government. McColl’s SNP council, like the Blairite Labour previous administration in West Dunbartonshire, are not prepared to fight like this, they instead pass on Tory cuts to the community.

It is possible to build a mass campaign to defeat the anti union attacks and cuts of the SNP council, as was shown by the victory of the EIS teachers against the previous Labour administration in 2016 in which Socialist Party Scotland members played a key role.

It is to be welcomed that Labour have come out in support of the campaign of the JTU. Richard Leonard should also support the strategy of no cuts budgets and call on Labour councils to implement them.

Right wing Blairite councillors who vote for cuts should also be deselected if Labour is to be transformed into a real, genuine 100 % anti-austerity party. Socialist Party Scotland has stood as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition on this fighting platform.  

Solidarity motion in support of West Dunbartonshire Joint Trade Unions – Please pass this in your trade union

This Union/ branch notes The attack on trade union convenor facility time by West Dunbartonshire council reducing the 3.5 convenors down to two as part of budget cuts. The unions involved are Unison, GMB, Unite and EIS. This union/ branch agrees to:

  • Publicly support with a statement the stance of the West Dunbartonshire joint trade unions against anti trade union attacks and condemn the approach of the SNP council
  • Support and send reps to attend demonstrations any industrial action and mass meetings of the joint trade unions in West Dunbartonshire
  • Write to local SNP political representatives, West Dunbartonshire council leader Jonathon McColl and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for a reversal to the cut in trade union representation in West Dunbartonshire