Drivers for Hackney's disabled children could strike over alleged council snub

Onay Kasab from Unite labelled this a significant victory for young workers in Tower Hamlets. Pict

Onay Kasab from Unite - Credit: Archant

Drivers and assistants taking disabled children to school in Hackney are holding a strike ballot over what union representatives have called a council "brush off".  

The drivers and passenger assistants are being balloted for strike action after they report the continued failure of council bosses to recognise their efforts as key workers during the pandemic.

Trade union Unite said Hackney Council "brushed off" repeated attempts to gain recognition for its members' role as key workers during the Covid crisis. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said members have had "long-running issues" with the local authority over "poor employment practices".

She added: “Unite is determined to advance the jobs, pay and conditions of its members working for Hackney Council. The council must recognise its failings and deal with them.”

But Hackney Council says it has "considered the matters Unite have raised" and is open to discussions with the unions. 

A spokesperson said the council recognised the "important role" of drivers and assistants, adding that "during the past eighteen months these members of staff have been working on the frontline, as have almost all education support staff. We are most appreciative of their work". 

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They say the council has had weekly and fortnightly meetings with union representatives during the pandemic. 

"These issues have not been raised in those meetings," a council spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, Unite wants the council to agree to several demands including Covid hazard payments, the improvement of health and safety measures, "proper" toilet facilities, uniform provision and relocation allowance for workers forced to move.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said "members deserve recognition" for working in such a high risk environment.

He added: "The continual and insulting brush off from the management to union members has led to this strike ballot. Union members have had enough.”

From November 1, 37 drivers and passenger assistants will be balloted on whether they wish to take strike action. The ballot closes on November 30.