Council workers – reject the pay offer
By a council worker in Coventry
Local government unions have just started consulting hundreds of thousands of members who work in Councils across the country over the latest pay award.
Paltry offer – sick pay and annual leave not protected
The headline is that the employers are offering a paltry 2 per cent pay deal over two years (1 per cent per year to cover 2016 – 2018). Significantly they have also refused to protect our current sick pay and annual leave.
We are getting worse and worse off. A Midlands TUC report released this week shows that wages in the West Midlands are on average £38 less in real terms compared to 2008. Our day to day experience shows that we are under more pressure at work – being subjected to sometimes oppressive performance management regimes, unrealistic expectations where management want us to provide the same vital service but with far less staff, all of which leads to more and more stress.
The position of UNISON, UNITE and GMB
UNISON and UNITE are both recommending that the offer is rejected and this is welcome. The GMB have made no recommendation. Why not? Surely it is either a good offer or bad offer? This is all the more strange since the GMB congress in 2014 voted to campaign for a £10 per hour minimum wage. This offer does not provide for that so it makes no sense to not recommend rejection. GMB members who want to see a fightback over pay should be asking these questions.
How can we win our pay award?
We need a massive rejection of the pay offer in this consultation. We need to tell the employers we mean business, and also the leaderships of our unions that we need to resist.
In a welcome development, the UNISON ballot paper has three options for those choosing to reject. They are – all out strike action, selective strike action and action short of strike action. Members can mark up to 3 of these options and we would encourage all 3 to be ticked.
What kind of action?
Some activists will see selective action as a way of winning our campaign – of bringing out groups of workers who in their eyes have more clout to really hit home. However selective action has certain dangers. It should not be seen as a panacea, as a short cut to winning our just demands. There is a danger that bringing out small groups of workers can mean the mass of members are bystanders and gives the impression that campaigns can be won by proxy.
This is being looked to (in many ways, understandably) by some activists due to the previous campaigns from the local government unions, particularly on pay and pensions (2014 and 2011 being the latest), where there have been highly successful and well supported days of strike action involving huge numbers of members. The union leadership has then sold us short – however the problem wasn’t the mass strike action which was highly successful but the fact that the leadership had little strategy and no plan of action, ultimately selling us short.
Selective action (or regional action) can be a useful auxiliary to mass national action but it is no substitute for it, likewise action short of strike action. However, as part of an overall strategy all three options should be supported in the ballot, with selective action and action short of a strike used to back up a programme of all out action.
What is at stake?
We need to not only reject this offer but to have a plan of how we fight for pay justice and also the wider austerity agenda. Much is at stake, yes our pay but also our jobs, terms and conditions and indeed the future of public services. The employer certainly recognises this – every time the unions have made way without a fight or have squandered powerful positions as in the disputes over pensions in 2011 and pay in 2014, the bosses in central and local government have been emboldened.
We need to challenge austerity strongly at a national and local level. We need to rebuild our trade unions recruiting more shop stewards and strengthening basic union organisation on the shopfloor. With Britain being the 6th richest country in the world and it being revealed that the 62 richest people in the world have as much wealth as half of the world’s population, we know the money is there for decent pay. The trouble is the system. We need to fight for socialism. Socialist Party members in the council trade unions are fighting for a programme of action and change – join us!