On Thursday 24 February, Unison members at Nottinghamshire County Council were out on strike against £150 million budget cuts. The strike was timed to coincide with the council meeting where the budget was to be set.
There were pickets at many of the council’s bases, located across the county, including at County Hall, the authority’s main headquarters. Picketers at been in place at County Hall since before the building was opened at 5.30am and by 8am were covering all the entrances to the building.
Few people were deterred by the pickets, but it was noted by several people that it was very quiet for a Thursday. Whether this is because of the strike or if people have taken leave or arranged to work at home so as to avoid the strike isn’t clear.
One person who did refuse to go in was a Labour councillor who explained he had never crossed a picket line in his life and wasn’t about to start now.
Most people going into work didn’t make much effort to engage with picketers, usually going out of their way to avoid eye contact. One council worker, however, tried to explain that while he was a Unison member, he was also a LibDem (evidently he wasn’t embarrassed by this) and supported what the government was trying to do to fix the “mess” created by Labour.
Strikers on the vehicle exit apparently encountered a greater number of people and were able to stop at least on postal delivery coming in.
Reports from elsewhere in the County tell a varying picture, with only 1 picket at the Employee Services Centre in Rushcliffe Business Park and as many as sixty at Lawn View House in Sutton-in-Ashfield.
The council’s own “disruption” page listed 2 customer service points, 6 day services and 11 libraries as being closed, at least for some of the day.
From 11am, strikers began congregating on Victoria Embankment for a march to County Hall and a rally (separate report to follow). Once that was completed a presence was maintained on the main vehicle entrance in the hope of ensuring any deliveries did not cross the picket line.
It is too early to confidently evaluate the impact of the strike action. While it may not have been as big as could be hoped for it is worth noting that after months of ignoring the union, the council organised a meeting to discuss their concerns as soon as the result of the ballot was announced.
The ballot was for open-ended action and meetings are planned over the next couple of weeks to see where the dispute can move forward from here.