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Local Government - 2000 into 1000 won't go


Local government staff in Newham, east London, must regard with some amusement the council's desire to move most of them into its Building 1000 project in Docklands. The council wants 2,000 workers on one site, though at the most the building can only take 1,500 staff.

This glass warehouse will see the ultimate in hot-desking: no fixed work-stations, no offices, home working, mobile working, working out of the boot of your car. No photos of the kids on the desks, no plants, no union posters, just transient staff wandering about looking for a seat. Huge savings are planned through reducing, closing or selling between 25 and 30 sites.

The whole idea of is to destroy collective identity. This is architecture as a weapon of class oppression masked with technology and supposed efficiencies. The unions have been told that no trade union facilities or space are available.

The aim is to get the unions out of this largest concentration of Newham staff, assisted to a large degree by the local unions, especially some in Unison whose sectarianism, abuse of facilities and kamikaze approach to industrial relations have alienated swathes of their own members and potential recruits.

So new thinking is required. If there are no fixed desks, notice boards or TU office, then every member in Building 1000 can be a walking advertisement – badges, shoulder bags, ties, diaries etc. They can take the union out of an office but they cannot take the union out of the members.