Thursday, 21 October 2010

Council parking charge is an opportunity to organise

Swansea council will today – October 21 – vote on imposing car park charges for its own staff.
Annual passes will cost between £99 and £399 – and won’t guarantee a space.
Mike Davies, of the local government union Unison, told the Western Mail newspaper: “Staff are particularly aggrieved that councillors have the ability to reclaim the charges on expenses."
This unpopular act is a golden opportunity for the council unions – usually GMB, Unison, and Unite – to strengthen their organisation.
I would call a mass meeting – giving control of the campaign to the members.
Let the meeting listen to everybody’s ideas – and come up with some innovative ways to fight the parking charges.
Everyone who used to have free parking should take out a grievance. That would leave the council with thousands of hearings to organise – and appeals.
Managers and union reps would be unavailable for weeks as they went through the procedure.
In my experience as a union organiser guerrilla grievances were a very effective form of action – usually winning.
Council workers could boycott the car parks when the charges start. The visual image of big empty spaces would ram home the unpopularity of the move.
The union should leaflet door-to-door in the streets where members will now have to park. Apologise to residents for the inconvenience, explain what is happening, and give them the direct lines of the council chief executive and local councillors so they can complain.
Workers could agree to start half-an-hour later and finish half-an-hour earlier to make up for not being able to park close by.
And keep the rest of Swansea on side by demanding free public transport for everyone.
This potential campaign offers a great chance to build team spirit among union members, to recruit new people to the union, and maybe even to win.

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