Thousands of council and hospital workers go on strike


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The Independent Online

Thousands of council and hospital workers went on strike today in two separate disputes over terms and conditions and claims of management bullying.

Cleaners, caterers and other staff at Swindon's Great Western Hospital, employed by private contractor Carillion, are staging 24-hour walkouts today and again on February 21 and 23.

The GMB union said it had submitted a formal complaint on behalf of more than 100 members of staff over claims of a culture of bullying, and has a £100,000 strike fund available.

A spokesman for Carillion said the firm was "very disappointed" with the strikes, adding: "The matters that have been raised are still currently being investigated in line with our policies and procedures. The investigation has been a lengthy process and at all times we have sought to accommodate the GMB and its members.

"It is unfortunate that a decision to strike has been taken ahead of the conclusion of that investigation. Carillion has had many years of excellent employee relations with its staff at the hospital which we have always sought to continue."

The firm said it had "robust contingency plans" in place to deal with the strike.

Thousands of Cheshire West and Chester council workers were also taking industrial action today in protest at cuts to their terms and conditions.

Members of three unions were walking out for three hours from 3pm, saying lack of progress in talks has left them with "no alternative" but to take industrial action.

Graham McDermott of the GMB union said: "The aim of this industrial action is to oppose the council's decision to impose changes to terms and conditions by means of dismissal and re-engagement.

"The cuts include the loss of enhancement for weekend working, removal of some shift premiums and the removal of the majority of Bank Holiday premiums. These cuts will impact on many of the lower-paid council employees."

Rail signal workers in Scotland also went on strike today in a dispute with Network Rail over career progression, which affected some rail services.

Rail Maritime and Transport union leader Bob Crow said: "This morning's action is rock solid and despite all the empty promises, Network Rail has once again had a major impact on services. If Network Rail spent as much time resolving this dispute as they do promising passengers trains that never turn up we could negotiate a swift settlement.

"RMT has tried to reach a negotiated settlement to this unilateral ripping up of a local arrangement but unfortunately the management have refused to see sense and have failed to engage with us at all since the strike action over Christmas.

"RMT members will not stand by while management unilaterally rip up agreements and practices that have been in place at local level for decades."