Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/520/3760
Local government pay
Bosses prepare to force through more cuts
Unison members in local government have hardly finished counting the pittance they received from last year's pay deal in England and Wales and the union has now lodged the 2008 claim.
Glenn Kelly, Unison national executive, personal capacity
The backdrop to the claim is the government's aim to see the 2% pay limit continue for the next three years, to cap council tax increases to below 5% and demand more 'efficiency savings' from all local authorities from which they have already saved £2 billion.
In the light of this, alongside pay restraint, it is also possible that we will see bigger budget cuts than we have experienced for a number of years, with the resulting threats to jobs and services, a fact the employers will no doubt seek to exploit in dampening any mood for above 2% pay increases.
As part of their agenda for pay, local government employers have previously stated that they want to put all our national terms and conditions in the pot for renegotiation.
The joint union claim for 2008 is for a one-year increase of 6% or 50p an hour, whichever is the greater.
The union leaders have said that they will give the employers until 31 March to make a reasonable offer and then will "consult" with members.
The union is also telling us that they are trying to coordinate across the different sections of Unison and other public-sector unions where possible. This all sounds good. However, as the last few years have shown, talk is cheap. We, the members, need to hold them to their word.
The next few weeks must be used to prepare the membership for a fight, so that come 31 March we are ready to consult the members through a strike ballot and not waste more time in pointless consultations and delays like last year.
You do not have to be mystic Meg to work out that we are in for an attack on our living standards - look what they are offering other public-sector workers.
The teachers have been "offered" a three-year deal well below inflation. In Scotland the SNP government has just responded to the Unison 5% claim with a three-year below-inflation offer.
Given that different sections of Unison face the same attack, it is right that we coordinate our campaigns and plans for action where more than one group within the union is prepared to lead a fight. However we must not allow the same undemocratic methods to be used that ultimately derailed the pensions dispute.
We must demand a democratically elected strike committee led by lay officials and proportional to the size of the groups involved.
In The Socialist 12 February 2008:
Local Government workers
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis