Unions step up strike threats

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East Dunbartonshire faces a summer of discontent with three unions on the verge of strike action.

Local MP Jo Swinson has also come under fire for defending local LibDem councillors’ 
“attack on women workers”.

UNISON Scotland has served formal notice to the council and its offshoot East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Cultural Trust that it is balloting its members on strike action.

This follows a consultative ballot that saw 96 per cent of Unison members vote for strike action.

GMB members have already voted in favour of taking strike action and Unite has held a consultative ballot that fell in favour of strike action.

UNISON, Unite and GMB unions said they would be meeting this week to discuss continuing co-ordination of their joint campaign.

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON regional organiser, said: “Our members have attended meetings in their hundreds and voted in huge numbers to demonstrate their opposition to the Lib Dem/Tory cuts.

“Workers are incensed by the callous cuts that are proposed – cutting three days’ leave means less time for parents to spend with their children or for those with caring responsibilities to look after loved ones.”

The union organiser also hit out at East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson.

He said: “These cuts will hit women the hardest so it is galling that local Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson is currently touting her book on gender equality when her local councillors are attacking women workers.”

He added: “No one wants to strike, it is massively disruptive to all. Our members lose money, schools will shut and services will be hugely affected.

“But when your core rights and conditions are attacked, ones which earlier union members have secured and defended, our members are rightly prepared to defend themselves and the services they deliver.”

The Unison ballot runs from May 8 to May 29.

In response to Mr Macfarlane’s accusation, Ms Swinson put the blame on the Scottish government.

She said: “Ultimately, it was the SNP’s failure to give a fair settlement to East Dunbartonshire Council that necessitated the difficult decisions that had to be taken in the budget, so perhaps the unions should direct their ire towards the SNP central government.

“In proposing the budget, the council made very clear that they are happy to work with the trade unions to explore alternative ways of making the savings. I hope these talks will be successful.”

LibDem group leader Councillor Vaughan Moody said: “We are perfectly willing to discuss the proposed measures with the unions, and if they can come up with alternative suggestions to bridge the budget gap, we will consider them carefully.“

Meanwhile, local Green MSP Ross Greer has lodged a parliamentary motion in support of the workers which has received support from Green, SNP and Labour MSPs.

Mr Greer said: “The council’s actions have already led to a one-day teacher strike at most East Dunbartonshire high schools last month and now the GMB are following a similar path due to the aggressively anti-worker agenda of the Conservative & Lib Dem councillors.

“Employees are saying enough is enough. The new council leadership are hell-bent on attacking the conditions of public servants and I support workers in standing up to this. The EDC leadership need to start listening to employees and show they’re valued.”