Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Making the weather on local government pay
The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Today - and particularly this lunchtime - it will fall upon many local government workers protesting in support of our pay claim.
Good luck to all those members of UNISON, and the other local government trade unions, organising events as part of the national day of protest about local government pay.
There can be no doubt that this action, in support of a reasonable pay claim for an increase of at least a pound an hour for local government workers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is a necessary early step in a campaign which must, if it is to deliver a worthwhile outcome, lead to national industrial action on a scale not seen since 30 November 2011.
Hundreds of thousands of local government workers (including school support staff whose pay is governed by the same bargaining machinery) earn below the living wage - and all local government workers have seen our living standards fall by 18% over the past five years as prices have raced ahead of wages.
The misery of pay restraint hasn't protected jobs or services in local government as widespread redundancies attest. A union movement which has not taken on the pay freeze and - in too many cases - has engaged in concession bargaining over conditions of service has proven generally inadequate in resisting the tidal wave of cuts and privatisation.
Where, however, trade unions have given a lead which members have been prepared to follow and have taken a firm line then there have been local victories in defensive struggles.
This is the lesson which we must now apply to the fight for fair pay for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are the largest bargaining group in the UK economy and, whilst we may not be able to alter today's weather from a meteorological standpoint, we do have the power to make the weather politically.
The Labour leadership talk about a cost of living crisis - our pay claim is an opportunity for them to offer support to workers doing something about it.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.