Staff rally to protest over ‘fire and hire’ plans

Reporter:

Thomas Morton

ANGER over pay cuts boiled over on to the streets as 750 Shropshire Council staff marched through Shrewsbury.

Staff congregated outside the Shirehall at 10am last Thursday to protest against the firing and re-hiring of staff, with a 5.4 per cent pay cut and changes in terms and conditions.

Services were disrupted across the county, with many council-run premises shut as a total of 1,200 council workers refused to go into work.

Unison trade union secretary Alan James said the strike was well supported.

He said: “It was a successful march and rally and it’s been effective. The day before Shropshire Council agreed to meet.

“There’s a commitment now, not only from our members, but also from the council, to come to an agreement.”

The eleventh hour agreement the day before came too late to avoid the scheduled 24-hour strike action.

Negotiations between Unison members and the council were reopened at a meeting on Tuesday, September 27 after 66 per cent of those who voted in a Unison ballot were in favour of the strike.

Alan James said: “We have a very short window. If we don’t come to an agreement this week we’ll have to pursue the industrial action route, but we don’t want to do that.”

Staff were joined at the rally by council workers from across the county.

Picketer Ade Andrew, from Oswestry, said: “The changes to our terms and conditions will see us fired and re-hired, going back with a reduction in pay.

“I was struggling to make ends meet as it was.

“We are told this is the first of the cuts with the worst still to come. If my mortgage goes up I will really be in real difficulties.”

While the council says the pay cuts are essential to stop 500 jobs being lost, many were still worried about their positions with staff having to re-apply for their own jobs and some having to cross the picket line to attend interviews.

Shrosphire Council hoped a meeting with Unison would avoid further strikes.

Council leader Keith Barrow said: “I firmly believe that striking is not the ‘Shropshire way’ and feel that we can now move quickly and amicably to reach an agreement that meets both the financial demands placed upon us and addresses the concerns of Unison members.”

Unison secretary Alan James said after the meeting: “We are really pleased with the results and we now have a better understanding of the financial situation the council faces but also feel that Shropshire Council recognises the need for us to represent our members.

“They have listened to our concerns and I believe that today gives us an opportunity to work towards agreeing specific details.”

See full story in the Leader

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