Hundreds of council staff march against pay cuts

  • @robhastings

Hundreds of council workers marched through Southampton yesterday in the biggest demonstation yet in a two-month long dispute over pay cuts.

The workers held a noisy protest outside a meeting of the city council as the two unions involved in the action, Unite and Unison, said that workers had been "bullied" into signing contracts with poorer pay and conditions, which bosses have been "ruthlessly imposing" on them.

The terms were signed on Monday by 99 per cent of the staff, who were threatened with dismissal if they refused. The council claimed the cuts had saved 400 jobs.

Street cleaners, refuse collectors, librarians and parking wardens are still striking. The council has sent out 10 trucks manned by agency staff to collect rubbish from the streets, but many houses have not had any waste collected since 23 May.

Keith Sonnet, deputy general secretary of Unison, said: "Sacking all council staff and re-hiring them with savage cuts to pay and conditions is grossly unfair and unnecessary."

He added: "This fight is far from over – we will continue to take action against Southampton Council's devastating cuts, which can only harm the local community and economy."

The authority's leader, Royston Smith, said: "I acknowledge and understand people's right to demonstrate. But the terms and conditions have now been signed and more than 99 per cent of staff have signed up and are back at work. It's time we tried to get back to work and put this behind us."