UNISON and UNITE in local government must co-ordinate action with the teachers and junior doctors!

UNISON and UNITE in local government must co-ordinate industrial action with the teachers and junior doctors!

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Strike together

By a local government worker in Coventry

The 3 local government unions – UNISON, UNITE and GMB have concluded their consultations on the pay claim. The offer from the employer was just 2 per cent over 2 years.

UNISON and UNITE returned big majorities for rejection, 64 per cent and 87 per cent respectively. GMB  members voted by a margin of 9-1 to accept the offer.  The GMB result is disappointing for anyone wanting to fight for decent pay. Certainly the scandalous bulletin being distributed by GMB national officers, in which UNISON and UNITE are attacked for delaying members’ pay increase is particularly unhelpful.

The fact that the GMB have departed before the battle has begun is a certain blow. It is always preferable for the maximum possible unity to exist, but that unity can’t be based around sub-standard pay deals and surrendering without a fight.

What has since become clear is that UNISON and UNITE put to the employer that instead of the pay deal being over 2 years, it should be for 1 year. This was rejected by the employers side and both unions appear to be seeking full industrial action ballots.

Activists in UNITE and UNISON should push for the building of ‘the spirit of N30’, when over 1 million public sector workers  from a whole host of unions came out on strike together in defence of pensions in November 2011

We should urgently look to co-ordinate our action with those of the teachers who are likely to strike over the academisation of our schools, and the junior doctors who are fighting against the imposition of changes to their contracts.

With the allegations of serial tax evasion from David Cameron, the steel crisis, and open splits over the EU referendum, the government is far weaker now than in 2011.

What is more, the billions squirreled away in tax havens show once and for all that the money is there for council workers to have decent pay. The money is also there for play centres, libraries and other vital public services that we all rely on.

This government can not only be defeated on pay. By piling on the pressure we can force the Tories out and defend working class people against austerity and build a movement that puts a new type of society on the agenda.

Council workers – reject the pay offer

Council workers – reject the pay offer

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Reject!

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!

Did you see the #TUSC election broadcast?

Did you see the #TUSC election broadcast?

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) election broadcast with Dave Nellist was on TV tonight (Friday) – did you see it? You can watch it online here!

If you want to get involved in Coventry, fill in the form below – and come to our election launch rally with Irish MP Ruth Coppinger on April 30th!

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