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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Strike averted in Swansea

The news that a planned series of one days strikes by Swansea Council workers has been called off is very welcome. Unison members had voted for the action in an attempt to obtain assurances that the Council will never ever privatise any service and that it will not make anybody redundant. It was pointed out to officials that this was an unreasonable request and that it was not one that any employer could give. However, a policy statement was offered to the union and it was accepted.

In his statement Swansea Unison organiser, Jeff Baker, was I thought, a little ungenerous. He said, "While we welcome this new statement from the council the process has been unnecessarily long. It has come after three years of failure to respond to Unison and other unions plus an eight week strike by IT staff. If the council had given us the assurances in writing we were asking for there would have been no need for any action or threats of action."

Given that the statement offered to the unions is long-standing Council policy, Mr. Baker's comments speak volumes for the state of industrial relations under the previous Labour administration. It has taken a new Liberal Democrat-led coalition to actually initiate a meaningful dialogue with the unions.

It is only a shame that Unison could not wait for this policy statement before initiating their strike ballot. It is regrettable too that they failed to make allowances for changes in policy and approach when conducting talks with us, treating the last three years as a continuum when it was anything but. It is because of this inflexible attitude that many have considered their readiness to take industrial action after the change in political control on 10th June, but not before it, as party political.

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