Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Local Government Day of Protest - Tuesday 4 February - the fight on pay is paramount
UNISON is urging all local government branches to participate in a day of protest on Tuesday 4 February.
This will be both to support our reasonable claim for a fair flat-rate pay rise of at least a pound an hour (ahead of the employers' side meeting to agree a response to that claim the following week) and to express opposition to yet another year of savage cuts in local government spending.
The call is not for strike action but for protests at lunchtime or after work. There are (of course) ways to support a protest at work too (for example by wearing UNISON colours) and in the four weeks we now have to plan there is time to organise the leaflets and stickers we need to get our message across.
The coming defensive struggles against the cuts may well have the highest profile in particular localities - and we need to mobilise our members to fight defensively (not least because such struggles are proven to limit the damage to jobs and services).
However, the challenge facing UNISON (and other union) activists in local government is to prioritise the fight for better pay. The best that ever comes from purely defensive struggle (which can be very very good) is damage limitation at a local level. The fight to reverse the declining living standards of workers covered by the largest bargaining group in the economy represents our last chance in this Parliament to inflict a defeat on the Government and to turn the tide which has been flowing so heavily against us for so long.
A serious attempt to secure a decent pay rise for a massive (and predominantly low paid) workforce in local government would deliver economic stimulus just where it is required - and the political circumstances in which we achieved such an outcome would be those in which we defeated the advocates of austerity (for workers and the poor - they never advocate austerity for the rich!)
A combative union movement (such as would be encouraged by a local government pay fight worth pursuing) would also be the best chance we have of pushing the Labour Government, for which we have no choice but to hope, into being a Government worthy of that hope.
Clever cynics will say this strong lead from the top of our union is two years too late to do any good. Cleverer people will know that it is never too late to try to mobilise working people to fight in our interests.
Let's plan to make the biggest splash we can on 4 February, building for the further action we know we're going to need.