Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/368/6046
Coventry Workers Fight Back
"STORM CLOUDS gather over council" was the headline in the Coventry Evening Telegraph after the announcement of the ballot results on the council's single status deal.
Socialist Party members working for Coventry Council
This rotten proposal claims to help the low paid but does it by robbing the pay packets of those slightly better off by between £1,700 and £8,000.
The campaign to oppose the deal has united all levels of council staff from bin men to benefit staff, from street cleaners to senior secretaries - it is the revolt of the boots and the suits.
UNISON members voted 3-1 against the deal 1,307 votes against 419. GMB/Apex members voted 61% against 42.6% for. Only in the TGWU was the vote narrower with 53.5% against and 46.2% for. The turnout was highest amongst UNISON members at 63.7%, GMB/Apex 57% and TGWU 61.4%.
New Labour's deal
The TGWU is the union whose leadership are closest to New Labour. New Labour are the real owners of this deal despite the council being Tory.
The majority of the gainers from the deal are also probably in this union.
Any future campaign must clearly argue for the preservation of the gains for the lowest paid but not at the expense of other staff.
Across the board the proposal has been decisively rejected. This is no small thanks to Socialist Party members who distributed nearly 2,000 bulletins across the council workforce clearly calling for a 'no' vote.
Our two Socialist councillors have been the only ones to publicly come out in opposition to the proposal.
In stark contrast, the New Labour "opposition" have been silent. As one Tory councillor said to a Socialist Party member, they were probably "crapping themselves" at the thought of the Tories exposing the fact that this was New Labour's deal.
The union leaders have not been much better. At no point have they called for decisive rejection of the deal. Some even argued: "This is the best we could get" even though many of their members stood to have their pay cut by £2,000 or more a year.
UNISON's leader Dave Prentis said it would not be: "Heads down and gobs shut for Labour" but council workers in our city could have done with a few local union leaders' gobs being wide open and shouting for a decisive 'no' vote.
Both the council's chief executive and the union leadership are busy putting the ball in each others respective courts.
But after such an overwhelming rejection the union leaders should be asking their members how they want their ball played. We urge that special general meetings be convened by all the unions to decide the next step.
The Tory council leader appears to have taken a step back from his deputy's comments implying that the deal would be imposed. Any attempt to impose the deal would be met by massive anger and not just in the council workforce.
Countless people in the city are looking at job losses at Jaguar and creeping low pay in the city.
The threat of industrial action against any imposition could have a huge echo, not least because it is happening at the same time as benefit office staff and other low-paid civil servants are taking action to defend their jobs.
Dave Nellist and Karen McKay - the city's two Socialist Party councillors, will be moving a motion calling for no losers in any deal at the 2 November council meeting. There are increasing signs of dissent amongst New Labour's own ranks. Two councillors left the party a week ago.
A united campaign across Coventry, linking those fighting for public services with the campaign against the Jaguar closure and the "McDonaldisation" of pay in the city is a potent possibility.
Defend Public Sector Pay and Jobs
Thursday 11 November, 7.30pm, Albany Pub, Albany Road, Earlsdon.
Come to the meeting to discuss a strategy to fight back.
In The Socialist 30 October 2004:
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party campaigns
Workplace news and events