Hackney bosses go on the attack

As part of its continuing attack on workers in Hackney, the bankrupt Labour council has announced a massive 38% cut in grants to community and voluntary groups. Over a third will lose their funding altogether. This will devastate services.

At the same time, the council has announced its intention to dismiss over 300 workers who did not sign new contracts on time. This comes on top of the sacking on August 13 of Noah Tucker, Unison chief negotiator and senior steward. Hackney Unison is balloting for strike action in his defence. What happened to comrade Tucker could easily happen to any militant activist who refuses to kow-tow to Labour?s local government bosses.

Allegations against comrade Tucker are about ?facility time? - time off for trade union duties. In fact he was absent from his workplace when he was actually negotiating with management. A range of spurious allegations were also made against him, all relating to the long-running dispute with Hackney council, and all of which collapsed through lack of any evidence. The council has been trying to force through draconian attacks on terms and conditions (including up to ?1,500 cuts in pay for already low paid workers) and the butchering of the (admittedly limited) family-friendly working practices.

It seems management have decided that the best way to win the dispute was to break the union by sacking its chief negotiator. The regional official of Unison has lodged a complaint to the employment tribunal and is seeking interim relief on the basis that Noah Tucker was victimised for his trade union activities. A mass meeting voted unanimously for a ballot on industrial action, and voting is currently underway, with the result to be announced in mid-September.

The Unison branch is requesting donations towards its strike fund, which has already been depleted by six days of all-out action over the last nine months. It is seeking invitations to speak at union meetings - not necessarily just Unison ones. Activists were invited from across the region to speak at a series of workplace meetings to launch the ballot.

Hackney Socialist Alliance was due to meet on August 30 to discuss our role in building resistance. The intention was for this August members? meeting to be turned into an open forum. Voluntary sector groups and users, Hackney Fightback (the umbrella group coordinating the campaign against the cuts), Hackney Unison and other organisations were invited.

Hackney SA had already planned a mass leaflet and canvass against council privatisation, and this will now be given fresh impetus, taking our campaign onto as many estates as possible on Saturday September 15. The alliance will also be building for the September 18 rally against privatisation organised by Hackney Fightback and Hackney Unison. Tony Benn will be joining comrade Tucker on the platform.

Then, on Saturday September 22, Hackney SA has organised an anti-privatisation day. In the morning there will be a car cavalcade, followed by a mini-funfair outside the town hall with children?s entertainment to highlight the cuts in childcare provision. In the evening there will be a social with live music.

Phil Kent