New super union fears public sector job cuts

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UP TO 100,000 public service jobs are likely to go in the next year according to leaders of 'Unison', the new 1.4 million-strong super union for the state sector.

On the day that union leaders revealed a strong vote among three unions to form what will be Britain's biggest union, 3,000 of its members were faced with redundancy at Birmingham City Council.

It was not know how many compulsory redundancies would be needed to make the required savings of pounds 40m, council officials said. Sir Richard Knowles, Birmingham council leader, blamed the Government for carrying out a 'vendetta' against the Labour-run authority following the setting of a capping limit of pounds 879.1m.

Unison's senior officers expect 20,000 health service jobs to go in London because of the Tomlinson report into hospitals, and scores of thousands more at local authorities all over Britain as some councils make 40-50 per cent cuts in spending plans. Rodney Bickerstaffe, who is expected to take over as general secretary of the new union in three years, said public service workers were in for a 'fairly horrific time'.

Alan Jinkinson, who will be general secretary of Unison when it is legally established next year, warned that there could be conflict over the redundancies and the 1.5 per cent pay ceiling imposed by the Government.

The three unions which are merging - the National and Local Government Officers' Association, the Nation Union of Public Employees and the health union Cohse - are consulting their members over industrial action.

Mr Jinkinson, leader of Nalgo, announced a 94 per cent vote in favour of the new organisation by members of Nupe and Cohse, and a 73 per cent vote in favour by Nalgo. The average turnout was just over 35 per cent - relatively high for a postal ballot.

Members of Nalgo, the largest and the richest partner, were less enthusiastic partly because of the relatively senior positions some of their members occupy in the public service. Nalgo is also politically independent while the others are affiliated to the Labour Party. Members of the new organisation will vote over the future affiliation of Unison in 1995.

Hector Mackenzie, leader of Cohse, said the merger vote was the 'best possible news for our hard-pressed public services and the staff who work in them'.

The Transport and General Workers' Union and the GMB general union are expected to begin merger negotiations in the new year. The new union would have nearly 2 million members.

----------------------------------------------------------------- MEMBERSHIP OF THE BIG FIVE UNIONS ----------------------------------------------------------------- Unison 1,400,000 Transport and General 1,060,000 Engineering and electrical union 980,000 GMB general union 870,000 Usdaw - shopworkers' union 320,000 Unison1, 400,000 Transport and General1, 060,000 Engineering and electrical 980,000 GMB general union 870,000 Usdaw - shopworkers' union 320,000 -----------------------------------------------------------------