Sunday, May 18, 2014

Local Government Pay - Now is the Time for Action (and not only now)

It’s less than a week until we start a strike ballot of the members of the majority trade union in the largest bargaining group in the entire UK economy – the local government workforce in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We have our work cut out to get the “YES” vote which we need – and to win our members to take strike action in the numbers needed to have the impact which will force the employers to shift their position.
With a clear target date for strike action in early July we have every opportunity, not least through coordination with other unions, such as the NUT and PCS, as well as the other local government unions, to begin to make that impact.

However it is equally clear that a single day of strike action – without even the threat of further action – would be unlikely to shift the employers (even if they are less intransigent after the local elections).
We need to identify, at the least two further consecutive days of national strike action in September for a number of reasons, including;
  • To ensure that the employers realised how serious we are about the dispute
  • To enable regions and branches to organise for further action over the summer
  • To enable us to have a focus for our campaigning across the summer period
  • To allow us to liaise with our Health and other colleagues and co-ordinate action with other unions
I know that my colleagues on the National Joint Council Committee are being consulted on concrete proposals to name such further action in early September. This is a most welcome development.
The difference between a purely symbolic dispute which is essentially a recruitment exercise and a serious dispute which aims to achieve real results for our members is precisely this difference between a single day and a sustained campaign.

We’re some of the way to achieving the goals of model resolutions which my UNISON branch has been told we ought not to have circulated (of which more later ad nauseam).

We need to remain vigilant, as local government workers, to ensure the effective and successful prosecution of our pay dispute – and the democratic control of our dispute by our members and their elected representatives.

More importantly than anything else though – we need to mobilise our members to take action.


Steve Jinx said...

I went on that big London demo -what was it...2011? -. Huge swathes of purple and green Unison banners carried by people all the up from Cornwall and down from Scotland, it brought a lump to my throat. All the fighting talk and the united sense of optimism though didn't ring true to me because I already knew that our branch secretary was going to agree to let members vote on our council's new downgraded package of terms and conditions. I also knew, and I'd told him so, that the workforce would agree to accept these worsened conditions. And so it proved. You rightly say Jon that you have a fight on your hands just to get people to strike for a single day let alone a more prolonged period, let alone go on a picket line. As ever, Unison are desperate to exploit the low-paid front line, people who can genuinely disrupt things -cleaners, drivers, caretakers, careworkers. These are the people most in need of help and the people who will derive least financially from the outcome of any strike. They will actually end up worse off when Unison agree an across-the-board percentage increase. The administrative and managerial staff who're on a comparatively good screw and don't tend to strike do much better.The public couldn't care less if the HR dept. or say the library admin. team go on strike, and I think the government, having successfully demonised the public sector (not without some justification - I have seen what huge pay packets and pensions accrue to a lot of timeservers)similarly will not be bothered about Unison kicking up a bit of dust. And then there's Dave Prentis's self-serving empty rhetoric to put up with......

Jon Rogers said...

I'm as cynical a person as you could wish to meet, but my cynicism has never won a pay rise. We have to organise within UNISON not simply to get members to vote for - and take - strike action, but also to do all we can to avoid an unsatisfactory settlement. If we go out for a flat rate then we shouldn't settle for a percentage.

I don't think it's good enough simply to see all the obstacles, pitfalls and difficulties in our way (although we must).

What is necessary is to try to overcome them.

steve jinx said...

"A Strike you say Tonto? I think not. That's exactly what they'll be expecting. It maybe even what they want. No, we've got to be more cunning than that Tonto."
"But Kimosabi, what you suggest?"
"I'd say an indefinite work to rule and an overtime ban, but can we rely on the people we're trying to help to carry that out?"
"I think them no strike no work to rule either Kimosabi, them no firemen, them no miners. Them like many different creatures of the plains."
"Wise words old friend, let's stick to what we know."
Hi Ho Silver.