Sunday, June 29, 2014
National strike action is worth it
One advantage of being somewhat long in the tooth is that I remember things. I remember, for example, explaining more than six years ago how it was only national strike action which had ever lifted local government pay settlements above the private sector average during my working lifetime.
This is a compelling argument to persuade UNISON members (and potential members!), as well as fellow trade unionists, to support the strike action called for Thursday 10 July. Whilst we might wish that all members would respond to a strike call with loyalty to collectivism, we have to appreciate that we need also to make the case to individuals motivated by self-interest.
Even if all we gained through national strike action was an additional 1% pay increase, and if that took three days of strike action, the loss which we suffered would be recouped within a year (for those whose employers deducted 1/365th of annual salary for each day of action) or eighteen months (for those facing 1/260th deductions). Thereafter, for the remainder of each worker’s career, we would be better off – and the incremental increase in our pay would add to our pension (and enhance the weekly earnings upon which any redundancy payment would one day be based).
Clearly we are not striking for such a miserly increase – but for our claim for a flat rate increase to achieve the living wage for all local government workers – and the correct decision of the National Joint Council Committee to identify the need for two further days of action in September if the employers do not shift significantly after 10 July demonstrates that we (or at least our elected lay leadership at sector level) don’t intend to repeat the experience of November 2011.
A single day of action is a recruitment drive. A sustained programme of action is a serious attempt to raise the living standards of our members and potential members. The former cannot be repeated time and again and remain effective. The latter is what we need.
It is not easy to persuade members to take strike action.
Whatever anger our members feel about austerity it has not led, and does not lead of itself, to a willingness to strike. We need to offer each member a persuasive “cost-benefit analysis” to persuade them that the loss involved in taking strike action is worth it because we have a credible strategy to more than make up for that loss.
The historical evidence is that well supported national strike action by local government workers delivers increases in national pay rates for local government workers.