Local Government pay claim – No more ice sculptures should die in vain
Time for co-ordinated action!
By a Coventry council worker
The three trade unions representing council workers have agreed the pay claim.
The GMB website states
‘GMB, UNISON and Unite, the three unions representing 1.6 local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on 16th October agreed to launch a major campaign for a minimum increase of £1 an hour to increase the bottom rate of pay in local government to raise it to a living wage hourly rate. The unions are calling for the same £1 an hour increase to also apply to all pay points above the bottom rate.’
Council workers, like all other sections of the working class, have seen our standard of living drop, as prices rise and our wages have nowhere near kept up with it. Year after year we are getting worse off. The latest announcements about the increase in utility prices underline the situation.
It is estimated that since 2008 we have lost 16 per cent in real earnings. Things need to change, or more and more council workers will be joining the queues at the local foodbanks.
So now the claim has gone in. What will happen now? Clearly the employers are not going to give it to us. The claim will need to be fought for. It seems year after year the union leaderships have put in claims, but haven’t really believed in them, and certainly haven’t had the guts to fight for it.
Little wonder that in the consultation meetings with members over the claim there was more than a degree of cynicism. Will our union leaderships fight? As one Unison member said in one meeting
‘Our negotiators need to show some testicular fortitude’.
This sums up the mood of many union members. After a truly lacklustre campaign last time where we ended up accepting 1 per cent, feelings of many were summed up by a union activist who commented at the time
‘How I feel about it is anger stabbed in the back shafted by my union because it’s the best deal they can get. 1% of nothing is crap and they have got a cheek to try and get new members because they are the union that gets things done! This is false advertising…..action is what’s needed not bull shit.’
This is how many activists have felt. It is in the context of the pensions dispute of 2011, and a general lack of a national strategy to defend jobs and services that frustration has grown.
The acceptance of the 1 per cent pay offer was after Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said we were going to ‘smash’ the pay freeze, destroying an ice sculpture in the process to illustrate our campaign. Unfortunately it did not live up expectations.
Members and activists within the 3 unions need to discuss how we can win a decent pay rise. We need to link the fight for a decent pay rise to that of saving jobs and services as they are very much part of the same battle. We saw on 30th November 2011 that when the unions co-ordinate their action, the fantastic effect that had on members. It was only the decision of the leaderships of the big unions to end the strike action that destroyed the momentum that had been built up. That can’t be allowed to happen again.
A number of unions are beginning to take action across different sectors. For example the CWU, FBU, NUT / NASUWT, UCU etc. Now is the time for the trade unions to co-ordinate the various disputes and name the day for joint action, for a 24 hour general strike.
The capitalist crisis has not gone away and we as members are suffering. The situation is even worse for whole swathes of unemployed workers, the youth, the sick and the elderly. We have to fight back now. To not lead a fightback now would be an abdication of responsibility. Socialist Party members in the trade unions will be building support for a strategy that can win a pay rise and can defeat the cuts, whilst at the same time building support for a socialist opposition to capitalism.
Help us in this task by joining the Socialist Party – click here
From the Archive – a letter sent from Unison stewards in Coventry to Dave Prentis
We are reproducing this letter from December 2011 sent to Dave Prentis the General Secretary of Unison, from a group of Unison stewards in Coventry. Unfortunately Dave was too busy to reply. It shows the anger of many Unison activists in the aftermath of a hugely successful day of industrial action, which the leadership of Unison, along with many other unions, proceeded to squander. This is why the Socialist Party is working hard in Unison and other unions to build up a strong, combative Socialist group within the union – in order to help reclaim our unions and to fight capitalist austerity. If you are interested in joining us in this important and vital work please click here
We wrote to you just before the TUC urging you to call on the TUC to name the date for the next round of industrial action.
We are extremely disappointed that not only has the TUC not named the date for action in early 2012, but that Brendan Barber and possibly also yourself (?) are putting forward that we sign up to an agreement that would merely see the pension changes delayed until 2014, and even that would be on the basis that when it come in, in 2014, that the unions would not protest about it!
This is simply not good enough. We as shop stewards at our work place spent months preparing for 30.11.11 – hours spent in our own time leafleting for a YES vote in the ballot, meetings and more leafleting in our own time to prepare the strike, win public support and to organise pickets.
Our members did us proud, in our office 95 per cent of people supported the strike (only about 7 out of 124 members of staff crossed), we had our biggest ever picket lines and this week we learnt our branch recruited 171 new members!
Our members responded, sacrificed a days pay because of what is at stake. They did that because they rightly supported what the union was doing. We have momentum, we have public support. We are outraged at what appears to be the attempt to sell what can’t even be described as a ‘deal’ to our members. This week our branch unanimously backed a motion calling for the date to be named with a programme of industrial action.
Now is the time to name the date for the next action, not to retreat! If reports that are coming out of the TUC are true, this is completely unacceptable. If the reports are incorrect, you need to publicly state what your position is and what you have been arguing for in the talks.
We would appreciate a response to this email, and would again urge you to do what is in the interests of our membership, and name the date for the next action.
Looking forward to hearing from you’
A Unison steward from Whitley Depot calls for rejection of the 1 per cent pay offer
Pickets at the Depot from N30, 2011
Why should we reject the pay offer? I feel it is an insult to council workers and the working class people of this country. In reality this is not a pay rise as we have had many years of a pay freeze. This so called pay rise would increase my wages by about £200 per year, before tax. After having our wages frozen, all they want to offer us is 1 per cent? In the current times where politicians are voting themselves a pay increase this is ridiculous. With the state of the economy families are losing their homes and visiting food banks to survive.
The government and the bankers have caused this mess but it’s the working people of this country that have to pay the price for their mess. The city council have has already refused to pay us our £250 one off payment that we should have had (and they budgeted for this so where has it gone?)
This latest pay offer is a complete and utter joke. If the Unison national leadership believes this is the best deal they have gotten for its members then maybe they should look in the mirror and ask themselves how they could attempt to sell us short again. This is not the first time the national union have attempted to sell us short.
When it comes to vote for the Unison general secretary position, its time that every member and activist takes a stand and votes for someone that will do what is right for the members and not be in the back pocket of the Labour Party like Dave Prentis is.
Vote to reject the offer!
Written by a Unison steward