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Strike threat intensifies in Southampton

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Managers in Southampton City Council have been urged to return to the negotiating table following a second ballot in support of strike action.

A narrow majority of Unite members, 51%, voted for strike action over the council’s plans to impose a pay cut by dismissing and re-engaging employees not willing to sign new contracts.

However, a council spokesman said talks would not be reopened and unions in the city are now set to discuss coordinated strike action.

The union’s ballot result, based on a 42% turnout of its 692 members, comes after a Unison ballot backed a strike by 56.5% on a 39% turnout.

Unite’s members also voted, by 85%, for industrial action short of a strike.

Convenor Mark Wood said the union had a strong mandate and called on Southampton City Council’s management to return to the negotiating table and avoid “great disruption” to the city.

“We appreciate that the city faces tough financial times, but our members also face soaring household and utility bills and a huge hit to their pay packets,” Mr Wood said. “What the council is proposing is a large pay cut, while inflation marches ahead apace.

“The turn-out of 42% is very high for ballots of this nature in local government and reflects the anger and frustration that our members feel.”

A spokesman for the council said there would be no reopening of negotiations following the ballot

Leader Royston Smith (Con) added: “I am disappointed that union members have voted to strike over the changes to their terms and conditions. If the unions were genuinely interested in representing their members’ interests then they should understand that we are trying to save staff jobs and the services those jobs provide.

“While I fully understand that any reduction in wages will be difficult for our staff, this is the only way to protect our residents from losing their libraries, leisure centres, Sure Start centres and weekly bin collections. Unlike many other local authorities we will protect essential services and in addition we have managed to freeze council tax.”

Without the terms and condition changes, an additional 400 jobs would be lost and “dozens” of front line services would be axed, he said. “I cannot and will not allow that to happen.”

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