Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Local Government Pay - now what?

If I were trying to settle this year's NJC pay dispute affecting hundreds of thousands of our members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland I think it is fair to say I wouldn't start from here.

Mixed feelings in the union were reflected in a narrow ballot result and patchy support for action. The subsequent decision to defer further action pending talks which have produced nothing more than some carefully worded joint statements which say nothing but do so elegantly has led to a loss of what little momentum we had.

The employers are not under sufficient pressure to make an improved offer at this point in time. We therefore have to identify steps which we can now take to put some pressure on our employers.

There are two seemingly impossible tasks which we have to grapple with. First we have to force the Government to provide additional funding to local authorities. Secondly we have to secure some of that additional funding for our members as an increased pay offer.

Since we have neither trade union unity nor any useful political influence with this disgraceful Government with which to secure these objectives these are incredibly difficult tasks.

However, with price rises skyrocketing it is equally impossible for our lower paid members to continue to make ends meet without a significantly improved pay offer.

After yesterday's TUC debate it is clear that there will be major public sector strike action, involving PCS, the NUT and possibly UCU members in Further Education and that this will take place from November onwards.

The General Council should set the date for the first of the TUC Days of Action to coincide with the commencement of this strike action - and we should aim for further local government strike action as part of this campaign.

The position adopted by the Lambeth branch about how to take the pay campaign forward offers us some challenging objectives - but unless we simply want to swallow a 2.45% pay rise (less than half the rate of inflation!) it seems to me that we need now to be fighting for further strike action.

A little update - I have been handed (at the TUC) a copy of "Workers" the occasionally entertaining journal of the impressively titled "Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)" and the comrades have this to say;

"Industrial action is not delivered by weasel words put through a blog site or painted on the side of Lambeth Town Hall or any other town hall in the hours of darkness"

Unfortunately the anonymous comrades don't go on to offer any constructive ideas about what we should do to secure better pay for our members - they must be too busy at their day jobs as union full-timers...

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