TWO leading union activists threatened with redundancy by Swindon Council are at the centre of a campaign by Unison to save their posts.
Bob Cretchley and Karla Bradford share a full-time job which faces the axe in April as part of the local authority’s efficiency measures.
The campaign has received support from local and regional unions, the South West TUC and national TUC sources such as Stronger Unions, who campaign on trade union rights.
Joanne Kaye, Unison’s south west regional secretary, said: “This is an appalling attack on the local union which would save an amount equivalent to less than a quarter of one millionth of a percent of the council’s budget, but which gives a voice to thousands of public service workers in Swindon.
“At a time when redundancies are being made, services privatised or outsourced to social enterprises and our members are struggling to do more at work with fewer staff as well as pay the bills and support their families, a trade union voice to speak out for them is absolutely vital.
“The council has legal obligations to consult with their recognised unions and like nearly every other council in the country, they have met these obligations by funding central posts. They now want to tear this agreement up and make our two representatives redundant.
“This move is a textbook blueprint of the demands being made by radical Tory groups such as the Trade Union Reform Campaign, who want to see the rights to paid time off ended for Trade Unions, so that workers in public services have no one to speak out for them.
“As well as seeking legal advice, we will fight a vigorous campaign.”
Activists at the council are elected by the 3,000 members of the local branch and carry out trade union duties on their behalf.
A lobby is being called for February 23 at 6pm at the Council Offices, in Euclid Street, and UNISON has already received pledges of support from trade union branches across the region who will attend.
Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure and corporate services, responded: “The union is only representative of 40 per cent of council employees and they are 100 per cent funded by taxpayers, which is paid by residents, not from union memberships. None of the other unions of the council are publicly funded in this way. This is coupled with the fact the staff only do union work.
“My suspicion is that if the public were aware council tax is funding union activity, they would rather the money be spent on council services directly. When you are talking about front-line services every penny counts in this current climate.” The council is currently undergoing a restructuring process which will involve axing 140 jobs.
Mr Williams said a staff forum would be set up to represent all union members at the council.
“We have offered to allow Unison to continue to have access to the IT facilities and the council, with union memberships paying for these two posts,” he said.