Council workers may strike over Westminster-Dingwall move

Westminster Council workers threaten strike after being told they must move to the north of Scotland or face redundancy

Submitted by Steven. on January 23, 2006

More than 400 workers at Westminster City Council offices are threatening strike action after a shock announcement on Friday that they are to be evicted from their offices. The staff were outsourced by the council to a private company in 2002, and have been told they must relocate to Dingwall in the far north of Scotland, or face redundancy.

The staff work who in parking, licensing, community protection and library services have been given notice to quit their offices and Vertex is claiming there is no where else for them to go, at a price they can afford in London. They were directly employed by the council, but since 2002 have worked for Vertex, who run Westminster Council’s £422 million, 10-year, Customer Services Initiative (CSi)

Dave Johnson, National Officer for UNISON said:

“Our members are stunned by the news and very angry. This is pure economic greed at the expense of hundreds of jobs. Westminster council are gambling with vital services, that demand good local knowledge, dealt with from the far north of Scotland – how can that be good for services, residents and people who work in the area.

“We will be telling Vertex and Westminster Council that they have left us with no choice but to fight back with industrial action if necessary."

Maria Keegan, 39, a senior licensing officer, said the plan is particularly absurd because the council has enhanced licensing responsibilities. "It would be one thing if we were selling Tupperware but this is something that needs local knowledge and expertise. There is no question that people intend to move there. Even my Scottish colleagues think it is laughable. I'm a Londoner. I would be like a fish out of water."

Unison announced they would be staging a demonstration outside Wednesday’s full council meeting in protest at against the move.

Rahul Patel, head of Unison at Westminster, said the mood of members was to hold industrial action.
He said: “We were given assurances that this wasn’t going to happen, they guaranteed staff will be able to work in Westminster for the lifetime of the contract.
“People were very shocked when they were told, then they were in tears – I have senior management in tears – now we are thinking about fighting. People will have to move or it will be the dole.”