Updated: why we’re still striking against Tower Rewards FAQs

Download: A3 Colour Poster “Mayor Biggs – shame on you!”

On 15, 16 & 17 July, will be our second round of strike action against the much-hated Tower Rewards.

For over a year, the council have sought to weaken our terms and conditions in the name of “modernisation”. Despite us working through the pandemic, they have shown us what they really think. First they clapped us, now they slap us. The proposals will increase inequality, weaken our rights and make all of our jobs more vulnerable.

New: The council already imposed the contract, so is there still any point striking?
It is true that the council have imposed the new contract, but they could still make new proposals. Any new changes could be incorporated into our contract by collective agreement between management and the unions.

This was the method proposed by the council at the start of the process. So yes, there is a point to striking. It isn’t too late to win.

New: How successfully was the last round of strike action?
The last round of action was a huge success. Hundreds took part in lively, socially distanced picket lines around the borough. Hundreds more took part in online rallies hosted by the union. Workers from Unite and GMB refused to cross our picket lines, and some even joined Unison.

We received support from over 100 organisations from around the country. Dave Prentis, the general secretary of UNISON, called John Biggs’ behaviour “so, so wrong”. Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse joined our pickets and online rallies. Kier Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has said he will intervene in our dispute.

Mayor Biggs is under huge pressure. His attempts to punish essential workers during a pandemic have not gone unnoticed. Both local and national press have covered our strike and will cover the next round of action.

Updated: What will a strike look like during a pandemic?

New Link: Take our “Preparing to Picket #2” survey for our next round of action

We recognise that many members who will have played an active role in strikes before Covid may be worried about their safety. Everybody has a role to play in this dispute whether they are shielding, working from home, or attending a physical worksite.

You can strike by:

  • Joining our virtual picket line rallies (more info TBC).
  • Creating and displaying window posters saying “Support the strike – withdraw Tower Rewards” or with your own slogans.
  • Joining one of our socially distanced picket lines at one of the following locations: Albert Jacobs House, John Onslow House, Mile End Hospital, Mulberry Place, Poplar Idea Store, Silvocea Way Transport and Refuse Hub, Tower Hamlets Car Pound (Commercial Rd), Whitechapel Idea Store.

Updated: Will I lose my job if I take part in the strike?

No, you can not lose your job for taking part in legal strike action. The union has followed all the necessary legal steps to ensure the strike can take place.

Members of GMB and Unite that refused to cross the picket line kept their jobs. As did temporary workers that took part in action.

Updated: Will taking part in strike action affect my pay?

Click here for our to make a request to our hardship fund (evidence of loss of earnings required).

Yes, the council will deduct pay for any strike action that you take part in. The union will support our members with loss of earnings in three ways:

Our branch has built up a substantial fund to support Industrial Action. The Covid crisis has already created a range of hardship. We will make hardship payments from Day 1 of action (subject to proof of loss of earnings/hardship; and with no payments exceeding normal pay).

We will be also pay £15 picket expenses for anybody who attends a physical picket line. This has been increased to recognise that people may not wish to use public transport during the pandemic.

What are the remaining attacks in Tower Rewards?
The union managed to stop many of the original proposals made in Tower Rewards. But the new contract is still a huge attack. The detrimental changes include:

  • Slashing Severance Pay by at least 80% and capping pay outs at £25,000.
  • Reducing starting salaries for Scale 6 to SO2 by one increment instead of expanding grades upwards.
  • Substantially reduced Flexi scheme that allows a maximum of one day owed per month with a maximum of seven hours credit/debit and loss of credit if not used within a month.
  • Travel allowances cut by £596 with more restrictive ECUA criteria.
  • Night work supplements starting later (at 9pm, rather than 8pm).
  • Market supplements replaced and restricted by subsuming into future pay rises and only giving to new starters.
  • Review of Special Leave entitlements
  • Removing protections around disciplinary and grievance procedures by making them non-contractual. This will offer less protection to TUPE transfers and reduce consultation if changed in future.
  • No payment for travel time in new Mobility Clause and limited compensation for excess travel costs.

Why are we striking during a global pandemic?

In March, our union reps decided to call of planned action in order to support the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was despite the council refusing to withdraw their implementation of Tower Rewards.

Since then, the government has sought to re-open the economy and loosen the lockdown. This means that we can take strike action in a safe manner.

Mayor Biggs is acting like Margeret Thatcher.

Faced with this situation, we had a simple choice –  defend our terms and conditions or accept this attack on our community. Tower Rewards will increase inequality and insecurity for our members.

John Biggs has clapped for key workers and said that Black Lives Matter, but his council should practice what they preach and reverse Tower Rewards.

Will striking affect my continuous service?

The council is deliberately trying to scare people into not striking over this issue. If you take part in strike action, you won’t accrue continuous service for the three days of strike action. This will not affect any other continuous service that you have with the council.

Is anybody exempt from strike action?

Nobody is automatically exempt from taking part in strike action. There are some individual cases (maternity, pension, court) where people may wish to be exempt from taking part in the strike. All requests for exemption must be regarding specific named members and must be agreed by branch convenors. Your manager can not exempt you from taking part in action.


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