Council workers vote to strike in Kirklees after a close vote

COUNCIL workers look set to bring services in Kirklees to a halt early next month.

Thousands of workers are expected to take five days of strike action in a row over redundancies.

Senior council officers hope they can still avert the industrial action, as talks are under way.

And the union’s ballot result, confirmed last night at a branch meeting, was very close.

It was 1,442 in favour of action and 1,270 against – a 53% to 47% majority in favour of the action.

The voting turnout among Unisons’s 8,500 members was 36%.

The union plans to hold a five-day strike in January to oppose compulsory redundancies.

If the industrial action goes ahead it is likely to lead to school closures and missed bin collections.

Crucially, it could also hit gritting services. The council’s gritting crews have been working round the clock for the past month to keep the roads open.

Unison, which has members in most council services, has balloted all its 8,500 Kirklees Council staff on industrial action.

The union called the three-week strike ballot on December 1 to resist any compulsory redundancies as the council reduces its budget.

Kirklees is in the middle of a cost-cutting programme which will see its non-school workforce fall from 11,200 to 9,500.

More than 500 staff have already gone voluntarily but the union is concerned that compulsory redundancies will affect many of its members.

Branch spokesman Paul Holmes said: “It was a close result but our members have taken it very seriously. It is a decision they have taken after a lot of consideration.

“We will now hold a branch meeting and decide when the action will be taken. By law, it has to begin at some point between January 4 and 17 and it will be five days of action.

“Members are really worried about their jobs but wonder what they can do. They have had a difficult decision to make; we are probably the first branch to do this but we certainly will not be the last.

“It will have a big impact on services to the public but we are talking about big cuts across many council departments”.

A council spokesman said the authority and Unison are still in talks to prevent a strike, despite a ballot which was marginally in favour of industrial action.

Council negotiators have made a further offer to the union which will now be discussed by the local branch.

Kirklees Council director of regeneration Ken Gillespie said: “We are disappointed that there was a small majority of those who voted in favour of a strike, but I would stress that the ballot was called on the results of negotiations as far back as October.

“Since that time, and even during the ballot period, we have continued to work with union representatives to find a solution which is fair to employees and fair to local people.

“Those talks have been constructive and I am still hopeful that we can reach a solution before any strike action.

“ In the event of any action, we are committed to maintaining essential services in a very difficult time.

“While 53% of those who voted were in favour of industrial action, there were only 1,442 voting yes and 1,270 voting no.

“ Overall, that is just 36% of the Unison membership.

“So it is a slim vote in favour, and we will continue to do all we can to maintain a dialogue with Unison and work to a solution which is fair to everybody.”

He said the council was working with school headteachers to help minimise the impact of any strike action on pupils.

Taken from Huddersfield Examiner

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