Drivers and assistants for special needs pupils vote to strike after council 'brush off'

Hackney Town Hall 

Hackney Town Hall - Credit: Julia Gregory

Drivers and assistants who take disabled children to school have voted to strike over what they call a Hackney Council "brush off". 

On December 1, trade union Unite representatives announced the decision to take strike action after a unanimous vote. 

Drivers and assistants allege the "continued failure" of council bosses to recognise their efforts as key workers during the pandemic. 

Talks are set to take place between Unite and council bosses on Tuesday, December 7.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “[Unite members] not only deserve to work in a safe environment, but to be properly rewarded. Unite is determined to advance the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. 

"The council must recognise its failings and deal with them.”

Dates for strike action will depend on the outcome of the forthcoming negotiations.

The issues involving 37 workers include the council not increasing or paying a yearly lump sum payment of £381, failure to agree a Covid hazard payment, unsatisfactory health and safety measures, including improper toilet facilities.

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Union members are also cite a lack of uniform provision or relocation allowance for workers. 

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The continual and insulting brush off from the management to union members has led to this unanimous vote for strike ballot. – they have had enough.”

In response, a council spokesperson said the drivers and assistants undertake "an important role" in Hackney.

They added: "We recognise that over the past year and a half that these members of staff have been working on the frontline, as have almost all education support staff and we are most appreciative of their work. 

"We have been in negotiation with Unite and have considered the matters raised. Although we are very disappointed in the strike action, we will continue to meet with them to have discussions with the aim of having an open, meaningful dialogue.” 

The decision to strike follows protests outside Hackney Town Hall this week, with the council accused of cutting the wages of two employees.