GMB ballot council staff for strike action over new contracts

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The GMB, the union for public service workers, are balloting members at Tower Hamlets Council over their decision to impose new contracts with worse terms and conditions.

Following months of discussions, GMB members rejected the proposed new contracts but the council went ahead and imposed them anyway. The new contracts, which were sent to staff in January, include removal and reduction in severance pay, removal of contractual procedures, and reductions in allowances and working payments.

The council have presented the new contracts as 'Tower Rewards' but most staff will see no pay increases and worsening terms and conditions including the removal or reduction in severance pay.  Severance pay is only payable at the point of redundancy and is only a factor if staff are actually going to be made redundant. The severance pay is the cornerstone of the council's 'efficiency savings' of which the imposition of the new contracts is the prelude to job cuts across the council.

Kate Jenkins, Tower Hamlets GMB Branch Secretary, said:

“Management have failed to manage their budget properly for the last three years and are in financial difficulties and that is why they are imposing these contracts.

“The attack on severance pay and the savings they say are achievable only exist if you are making people redundant.

“There are no savings, only cuts in jobs and cuts in services.

“Council services have been decimated by a decade of austerity and these further cuts will only do further damage to already stretched resources.”

Anna Lee, GMB Regional organiser, said:

“It's ironic that the council describe these new contracts as 'rewards' when they are anything but; there is nothing in these contracts which reward hard-working, low-paid staff. 

“This is obviously the first step in rounds of job cuts to come. Why else would the council attack severance pay, which is only payable when people are made redundant, unless they are going to make people redundant?  There is obviously no other reason to do it.

“This dispute is ultimately about protecting jobs and protecting public services.  The fact that a Labour council is responsible for this is a disgrace but I'm sure the Tory government would be proud.”