Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

On Your Marks for a Battle on Jobs

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

On Your Marks for a Battle on Jobs

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Young

Council workers are threatening to disrupt preparations for the Great North Run following a row with their employers.

Highways staff at Newcastle Council who do essential safety work such as erecting barriers for the run are involved in a wrangle over the possible handover of roads maintenance to a private contractor.

Colin Smith, senior regional GMB union organiser, said staff are upset about a report to today's meeting of the council's executive which makes no mention of what will happen to the existing workforce.

Unless the row is sorted out they could be heading for a dispute and a ballot over industrial action.

Mr Smith said staff are so angry they are threatening to boycott work on the Great North Run on October 1.

Council officials are confident the run, with 50,000 people taking part, will not be affected and a dispute can be avoided.

Mr Smith, who represents more than 200 highways workers, has e-mailed the council's Liberal Democrat leader, Coun John Shipley, setting out his concerns and demanding an early meeting.

The council's executive meets today to consider making a bid to the Government to launch a Private Finance Initiative, worth more than pounds 300m over 25 years.

Mr Smith said staff are worried about their jobs and conditions. He declared: "There's not a word about the implications of this proposal for the workforce.

"As a union, we are opposed to privatisation of council services. We do not believe it will improve quality and could lead to the erosion of the pay and conditions or the loss of jobs."

He said volunteers who help with Great North Run work outside their normal duties are threatening to boycott the job.

"It's possible, because feelings are running so high," he said. "They feel the council has not given an ounce of consideration to their livelihoods. We don't know the nature of the bid or if it would include the transfer of staff to a private contractor."

Any boycott could affect the section of the run within Newcastle as far as the Tyne Bridge. Runners then pass through Gateshead and South Tyneside, not hit by the row. …

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