Friday, August 01, 2014

All out on 14 October! (rather than 30 September)

Better late than never?

It appears that we are now all out on Tuesday 14 October rather than Tuesday 30 September (as previously advertised...) in the fight for fair pay for local government workers.

UNISON activists need to turn all our efforts to building support for this action, but that doesn’t mean we have to be uncritical of tactical ineptitude. We should not, as local activists, have been put in the position in which our trade union announces strike action and then deletes that announcement without comment.

Most UNISON local government branches are used to being the largest union at a local level. As a rule, we would have a moral and political right to assert ourselves over other unions whose combined membership is considerably less than our own when determining tactics in an industrial dispute with our common employer.

However, those of us with some common sense, who know that divisions between trade unions benefit employers rather than workers, choose not to use that right in favour of building consensus (even in the face of irritated criticism from within our own organisation).

Obviously our senior officials (across trade unions) could and should have had a dialogue with a view to arriving at joint recommendations to the democratic decision-making bodies in each trade union. That runs a risk of undermining lay democracy (but that is what officials do anyway as a matter of routine!)

More importantly therefore, rank and file members of the various unions should have an unofficial forum in which we could have arrived at our own point of view. The disintegrating left which we are saddled with is not capable of generating such a forum.

The observation in the UNISON press release that “The strike will be just a few days before the TUC organised national demonstration on 18 October calling for decent pay” makes us vulnerable to the argument that we are asking our members to make the sacrifice of strike action as part of a stage army in the run up to the General Election.

However, given the refusal of the Labour Party (thanks to the approach of trade union delegates) to oppose austerity, the reality of our strike action (and of the TUC demonstration) is that we are as much putting down a marker to Eds Balls and Milliband as firing a shot at Cameron and Osborne.

The decision to defer the strike called for by UNISON’s National Joint Council Committee will be proven right if – and only if – October 14 sees unified action including health workers as well as local government workers. Such action would give the best hope of a better outcome for local government pay and the most effective political impact upon the Government (and Opposition).

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