Britain  •  Industrial  •  UNISON union

Local government: vote yes and organise to strike!

04 June 2023

By a Unison member

Over half a million council and school employees are currently balloting for strike action to win a real pay rise. If successful, this would be the biggest strike yet in the wave of action over the cost of living crisis. But the task is huge.

The Local Government Employers’ Association has offered a flat rate increase of £1,925, identical to last year’s pay rise. This amounts to 3.9% for the higher grades and 9.4% for the lowest. With RPI inflation standing at 13% in April, when the rise was due, it is a pay cut for all grades.

The unions – Unison, GMB and Unite – have called for a 15% uplift. This covers inflation and includes an element of catch-up after 12 years of pay cuts. In total the real value of council workers’ pay has fallen by a quarter, 25%, over the years of Tory austerity. Over the same period two million jobs have been lost, meaning fewer staff working harder.

Getting over the undemocratic 50% threshold in a postal ballot will be hard. More members working from home, hopelessly out-of-date membership data and a lack of effective stewards in some areas present real difficulties. But after last year’s disappointment we are better organised and we can do it.

Thousands of activists are geared up and organised to phone round the members, checking that they have voted or ordering new ballot papers if lost or misaddressed. Workplace and zoom meetings are a vital means of recruiting new activists into the union structures.

At the same time, we need to use this exercise to establish new workplace organisation and council-wide elected strike committees. Undoubtedly the union leaders will adopt the same old reformist strategy of the occasional strike, followed by weeks, if not months, of inactivity while secret negotiations are held.

In response to this we must demand membership control of all negotiations and strike dates. In every branch and workplace we need joint union meetings, where members can discuss and vote on different strategies to win.

Workers Power members will argue for sharply escalating action leading to an all-out strike as the quickest and most forceful way to win our claim in full. We can learn from the strikes over the past 12 months, their successes and pitfalls, so we can emulate what works and avoid what doesn’t.

·  Vote yes for strike action

·  15% for all

·  Prepare for an all-out strike

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