Trade unionists speak out against low pay

Trade unionists speak out against low pay

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Coventry TUC campaigning against low pay

An event was held today in Broadgate Square on Saturday to highlight the effects of the Tory pay cap on vital public sector workers in our city. Organised by Coventry TUC, a number of speakers addressed shoppers explaining what pay cuts mean to working class people. Since 2010, many workers have lost thousands of pounds in real terms as the increase in the cost of living outstrips wages.

Across the public and private sector workers lose out whilst those at the top increase their wealth. Already there are cracks in the pay cap, now it is the task of the unions to organise action to not only break the cap, but to put an end to this Tory government.

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!

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Coventry Council trade unions under attack from Labour council

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers - on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

Glasgow Homelessness Caseworkers – on strike for 15 weeks and supporting Coventry unions!

By Jane Nellist, Coventry NUT joint secretary (personal capacity)

Coventry City Council, a Labour controlled authority, is seeking to make draconian cuts on the trade union facilities time of the recognised trade unions.

Recently in The Socialist newspaper we have had reports of attacks on trade unions in Conservative councils which are being fought alongside mass privatisation of services, but these attacks, from a Labour controlled council are an absolute disgrace.  Trade Unions are organising and mobilising members to defend our rights to support our members.

What’s worse is the manner in which they are trying to railroad this through without proper negotiation and regard to our collective agreements.

A Collective Dispute lodged on behalf of Unison, Unite, NUT, NASUWT and ATL has been disregarded.  The proposals outlined in a flawed document, which is defended with references to the arguments used by the Tax Payers Alliance, would mean that unions would suffer severe reductions in the time allocated for Trade Union duties to support their members, with Unison losing 45%, Unite, 21% and the NUT losing 70% of facilities time.

Pressure by the two Labour Party affiliated trade unions to persuade Labour leaders to intervene and withdraw the proposals has had no impact which makes members question more seriously why their unions are funding the Labour Party.   A wide campaign has now been launched to challenge the attacks.

Two issues need to be highlighted.  City Council Trade Unions have been at the forefront of the campaign to defend council services in the city.  We have had some success in pressurising the council to pull back on some areas of cuts to more vulnerable services such as Library cuts, disabled transport for schools and an employment service for vulnerable adults (TESS).  More importantly, these attacks coincide with the plans for the huge cuts which are about to come because Coventry Council, like others across the country have refused to stand up to Tory cuts.

It’s not just going to be services that are under attack.  As well as the 1000 jobs already cut, we know that there will be more job losses planned as well as huge attacks on pay and conditions on our members.

The key issue here is that whilst you sort of expect it from Tory councils, the fact that Labour is now openly preparing the way for the Tory’s dirty work exposes just why we need political representation that supports workers and defends our services.

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

Former Coventry Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist supporting council unions

The National Shop Stewards Network on Saturday, demonstrated how important it is to have fighting trade unions. The NSSN conference heard from trade unionists in Coventry about the campaign – with hundreds of union activists, including shop stewards, NEC members and general secretaries pledging their support for us

The fight in Coventry needs to be supported locally, nationally and internationally because if they get away with it here then your council or workplace trade union facility time will be next.

Our trade union movement has made great advances over the decades, but what we are seeing now challenges to all of those gains.  This must not be allowed to happen.

Support us by

  • Signing the online petition here
  • Like the Facebook campaign page here
  • Join the protests against austerity on Wednesday 8th July, 5.30pm Broadgate

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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