Salford Council workers who attended a short lunchtime rally in support of General Strikes across Europe today heard speakers draw the links between what is happening in places like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and Cyprus, and what is happening on our own doorstep in Salford.
"It's important to mark this day, even though British trade unions aren't participating in the European General Strike" said Steve North, Salford City UNISON branch secretary "Trade unionism is an international issue. It's about people who have more in common than simply nationality or language or colour of their skin. It's about people standing together because they are working people who are exploited by an international system.
"We're seeing repeated attacks on our living standards and jobs and our wages as a result of an international campaign of austerity of behalf of the wealthy across the world" he added "I think it's fantastic that we're marking a day of European strikes - but also that we're repeatedly sending a message to Salford Council that we are a workforce that is prepared to stand up for itself and is prepared to fight if it needs to..."
Steve gave an update on the attempts by Salford Council to impose wage cuts on its workforce to save £15million. Following trade union fury, the original proposals have now been taken off the table while negotiations on a new pay and grading structure are in progress.
"We're not opposed to it in principle because the present structure isn't perfect" he said "What we are opposed to is one being imposed against our will. If we aren't able to agree a new pay and grading structure with management by start of new year we could see one being imposed through dismissal and re-engagement. Clearly, if that happens, it will be an attack, not only on the people who will lose their pay, but on the rights of the trade unions to campaign and bargain on behalf of people working for this Council."
While negotiations are happening with the Council, the Salford UNISON branch has written to its regional office requesting a ballot for industrial action in case talks break down… "so we can react, fight and take action immediately.
"We need to be saying that we do not expect savings to be imposed against our will" Steve concluded "They need to understand what we'll do if they intend to do that. And what we're already making preparations to do if we need to…"
Earlier, Salford City UNISON treasurer, Ameen Hadi, had told the rally that the branch committee voted yesterday to support the idea of a General Strike in this country…"We need to start to organise ourselves at the bottom" he said "to force our leaders to do what they need to do to protect our services and jobs for the future."
Salford City UNISON has called for two lobbies of Labour councillors to help them `understand' what will happen if the cuts go ahead in Salford…
Lobby the Labour group of Councillors - Monday 19th November 5pm outside the Civic Centre, Swinton
Lobby the Full Council – Wednesday 21st November 8am outside the Civic Centre, Swinton
See previous Salford Star article on the imposition of £15million wage cut – click here
* A European General Strike solidarity rally also took place in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester today