By Chris Taylor
UNISON RECENTLY announced that striking Glasgow City Council IT workers have accepted an offer from the council and returned to work.
Having secured guarantees that they will continue to be council-linked employees and suffer no redundancies or relocation, the strike has been called off. This brings to an end a dispute which began in November over the council’s proposal to outsource IT services to Canadian corporation CGI Group.
Appallingly, the council’s ruling Labour group backed this move. Despite five of its executive members being trade union members, all five voted for privatisation. Throughout the dispute the council have subjected IT workers to intimidation, tried to have the strike ruled unlawful, and made farcical attempts to recruit scab agency workers (the agency tasked with hiring the scabs unwittingly attempted to recruit many of the striking workers).
While this is a qualified victory for the IT workers, CGI Group are nonetheless set to become the council’s IT provider with all the abysmal service, rocketing costs and lurking threats to jobs that entails.
Elsewhere in the city, striking school janitors face a new assault from the council. After more than a year battling the council’s Arm’s Length External Organisation (ALEO) Cordia over terms and conditions, management have opened a new front with the announcement that 33 jobs are to be cut. Janitors are to be rebranded as Facilities Assistants and moved over to a new contract, while those who live onsite in tied-houses are to be evicted.
The janitors have been subjected to a vindictive campaign that has seen Cordia spend thousands of pounds a day mitigating the impact of industrial action, money that would have settled the janitors’ claim many times over.
The twin problem for socialists in the city is, firstly that these attacks are being orchestrated by a Labour council, and, secondly that there is little appetite in the unions to meaningfully link these various struggles.
The first problem could be addressed if Labour receives a richly deserved kicking by the electorate in May, providing the left seizes the opportunity to transform Labour locally into a democratic, campaigning socialist party.
The second problem is that the timidity of the union officials prevents them opposing these assaults on jobs and wages on a political basis; strikes are called to defend terms and conditions, rather than to fight the cuts, which lie behind the attacks on terms and conditions.
This allows employers to wage war on parts of their workforce one at a time. Both the jannies and IT workers are organised by Glasgow City Unison, which should mobilise all its members to defend those on the frontline, as all will face this battle soon enough.