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Pay cut leads to strike action

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Southampton City Council employees are poised to go on strike over the imposition of a pay cut.

A ballot of Unison members resulted in narrow vote in favour of taking strike action after the council sent letters to staff warning them they would be dismissed if they did not accept new contracts containing reduced terms and conditions.

Just over half, 56.5%, of union members who voted supported the call for a strike, while 78.2% of those who voted backed industrial action short of a strike.

Turnout for the ballot was 39%.

Unison is now waiting for the local Unite branch to complete its own ballot later this month before making a joint decision on what form the strike will take.

The two unions have also instigated legal action against the council claiming that it failed to consult on the mass dismissal of staff. The city council has asked the employment tribunal for an additional 14 days to respond.

Employees have until July to sign the new contracts or face dismissal and, so far, 2,744 or 58% of staff have agreed to the new terms.

Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker said: “The vote to support industrial action demonstrates that council workers are still standing up to the council’s mass sackings and impositions of savage wage cuts.

“Council workers continue to resist the Conservative controlled council’s attempts to get council workers to pay for their economic policies. They remain determined to defend both their pay and local services.”

Southampton’s leader, Royston Smith (Con), said he was disappointed by the decision of Unison’s membership and warned that without that 400 more staff could lose their jobs if the council did not save £25m in the next year.

“If the unions were genuinely interested in representing their members’ interests then they should understand that we are trying to save jobs and services here,” he said.

“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, in Southampton we will protect those essential services and we will freeze council tax as a result of the savings made from these changes to terms and conditions.”

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