This week SWAN has learned about the unofficial strike by social workers in the North and East Community Homeless Casework Team of Glasgow City Council, who are members of Unison. They walked out on Friday 13th September, following the suspension of a colleague who refused to cover the work of vacant posts. UPDATE: wildcat strikers returned to work on Wednesday 18th September, pending official industrial action as their member was reinstated to their position and talks with management were agreed. See foot of article.
Unite the Resistance reported yesterday (Monday 16th September), that the strike had escalated across the whole service following a union meeting of 60 people, after talks with management over workload failed to resolve the issues. The workers are demanding management take action to prevent excessive workloads by agreeing to a cap of 35 cases per worker.
SWAN members in Scotland were pleased to hear today that the striking workers held a lunchtime rally and are also planning to hold another tomorrow.
SWAN as a radical campaigning social work organisation would like to pay tribute to and express our solidarity with the courageous actions of these social workers in standing up to their management and refusing to sacrifice the homeless people with whom they work nor themselves to austerity. They have stuck to their principles and values while drawing a line in the sand; in doing so they reinvigorate and breathe hope back into the profession. We applaud such actions and we will be arranging a healthy donation for the striking workers from our solidarity fund - this should be passed to them tomorrow (Wednesday 18th September).
SWAN Steering Committee members have been sending personal messages of support to our colleagues and comrades in Glasgow:
Michael Lavalette, National Co-ordinator, Social Work Action Network (SWAN):
'Dear sisters and brothers, I am writing to you as the National Co-ordinator of the Social Work Action Network. I would like to pass on our solidarity greetings and best wishes to our colleagues and comrades who are on strike in the homeless section of Glasgow city council. Your strike is occurring at a vital time. 'Austerity' is being used as a cover to transform state welfare provision in a way that is detrimental to workers and service users. Your fight is an inspiration to all of us who want to end privatisation and austerity and who are engaged in the struggle for a better world.'
Iain Ferguson, Steering Committee and Treasurer, Social Work Action Network (SWAN):
'Solidarity with our striking Glasgow colleagues from the Social Work Action Network. You are at the sharp end of the fight against cuts and managerialism and deserve the support of us all. We will be urging our supporters throughout the UK to deliver moral and financial solidarity.'
Dan Morton, Steering Commitee, Social Work Action Network (SWAN) and Coordinator, SWAN London:
'SWAN London send their best wishes and total support to trade union colleagues in Glasgow. Thanks for standing up for homeless people in Glasgow, your colleagues and giving the austerity-mongers a bloody nose!'
Sue Talbot, SWAN Steering Committee and West Yorks SWAN:
'Brothers and sisters, At a time when public service workers, services and service users are all under the cosh we send solidarity greetings. We know that we're all suffering the effects of neo-liberal policy and ideology and that we cannot do 'more for less' & won't settle for doing 'less for less'. We welcome your defence of jobs and services and join you in demanding reinstatement, 'no cover' & the filling of vacant posts.'
Mark Baldwin, SWAN Steering Committee, South West England SWAN:
'The South West Regional group of SWAN in England sends a message of support to the social workers of the North and East Community Homeless Casework Team of Glasgow. The 250 social workers, service users, student social workers and social work academics of the South West of England SWAN network send a message of support at this moment when you are resisting the imposition of working practices which will fundamentally affect not only your own working conditions but, much more importantly, the well-being of people who are homeless. Their needs and particularly their need for regaining some sense of autonomy in their lives through the support that your team can provide will be seriously compromised if managerial decisions which reduce the service provided are not resisted. We recognise that social workers across the country are being put into very similar positions by managerialist and politically motivated decisions designed to reduce the welfare state at a time when recession and austerity is actually increasing the numbers of people being pushed into needing services like the ones you provide. In that sense WE are all in this together; your struggle is our struggle.
Stand firm against injustice. We are with you in spirit'
SWAN would encourage all its members and supporters to send messages of solidarity as soon as possible to Unison Glasgow City Branch. Financial donations can be taken in cash to the branch or by cheque (made payable to the branch and sent to the postal address):
UNISON Glasgow City Branch
84 Bell Street,
GLASGOW, G1 1LQ
Phone: +44 (0)141 552 7069
Fax: +44 (0)141 552 3807
UPDATE - Solidarity Works!
UNISON members in Homeless Service returned to work at 1.30pm on Wednesday 18th September on basis that official strike will be organised. A meeting between management and UNISON took place at 2pm today to seek immediate progress on a workload management scheme. Suspended worker reinstated without any further action. Members content that point has been made about unacceptable workloads and poor staffing levels. Total unity of decision to return to work on this basis'.
SWAN stands ready with £250 donation from the national solidarity fund and a further £230 from SWAN London should the Caseworkers progress to further industrial action.