Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/258/24705
Council workers' pay battle: End Low Pay Now!
COUNCIL WORKERS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are putting pressure on local authorities by announcing a one-day strike on 17 July. This will involve members of UNISON, TGWU and GMB. The unions are still balloting but it is obvious the mood is there for strike action.
At the same time as the national strike ballot, UNISON members in London are on their second strike for a £4,000 across-the-board London Weighting payment.
The national pay claim is for 6% or £1,750, whatever is the greater. The employers' final offer is 3%, a derisory 15p hourly increase for the 270,000 local government workers who are on less than £5 an hour.
The top councillors aren't suffering though. The average allowance paid to council leaders is £12,403, the same as the average pay of more than half the 1.4 million local government workers.
Council workers are sick of low pay, cuts and privatisation. A recent survey carried out for UNISON has found that seven out of ten local government workers thought about leaving in the last year. The main complaints are about pay and lack of resources to provide services.
But they are also showing they are prepared to fight for decent wages and conditions.
After the first London Weighting strike, Nancy Taaffe, from Waltham Forest UNISON, told The Socialist:
"The strike on 14 May shut 80% of workplaces in Waltham Forest. Even in some places where we didn't expect workers to stay away they did.
People were nervous about taking action and many - particularly single parents - are worried about losing money. Yet many others, particularly young women, joined UNISON because of the strike and immediately set about organising in their workplaces.
People recognise that public-sector workers have seen their living conditions deteriorate as the cost of living in London soars. There is a strong desire, particularly amongst the very low paid, to link up with other unions to make strike action as successful as possible.
Keeping the Dome vacant for a year is equivalent to the amount it costs to pay us a meagre £4,000 each. And last year Waltham Forest spent £6 million alone on private consultants."
"Why shouldn't we get our pay and London Weighting demands? We deserve it because we're worth it."
In The Socialist 14 June 2002: