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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 October 2008

Local government Scotland: Reject the pay offer!

The three local government trade unions are recommending that the 200,000 council workers in Scotland reject the employer's latest offer of 3% in 2008 and 2.5% in 2009.

Brian Smith

This new offer was tabled with the trade union negotiators on 2 October and is an insult to our members. It is even worse than the single year offer of 2.5% made in September.

The offer does nothing to address low pay, and would lock us into a deal until April 2010, by which time who knows what inflation will be. It is well below the official rate of inflation, which seems to go up weekly - never mind the even higher price increases for basics like food, energy and fuel that we all face.

Unfortunately, the trade union leaders did not tell the employers to "get stuffed" on 2 October but agreed at the insistence of the employers to suspend all strike action and consult members through a postal ballot.

These ballots will not conclude until mid November. At a meeting of the Scottish Unison branches on 10 October, three of the largest branches - Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and Dundee - called for an immediate rejection of the offer based on feedback from members since 2 October and a return to the strike action as soon as possible.

No one argued that the offer should be accepted, although several speakers said some of their members were not prepared to take any further action. The leadership argued for the ballot, based on the idea that this would unite the membership.

The three branches argued that those in the room had had over a week to gauge their members' views on whether they wanted to reject the offer and continue with the strikes. Further delay could lead to a lessening of the members' willingness to take action through demoralisation and would mean future action not beginning until late November.

The leadership's position was supported by a majority of the 100 delegates at the meeting and the ballot will now begin on 22 October. The two other unions will follow a similar timetable.

The Unison leadership have now belatedly and rather reluctantly accepted the argument put forward by the Glasgow branch at earlier meetings that the strike action must be escalated if we are to win this dispute. This was justified on the basis that things have changed and is a tacit acceptance that the strategy so far has been flawed despite the two very successful one-day strikes since August.

The exact nature of the escalation that will be proposed is unclear, with the current Unison statement only saying that: "Strike action will need to be more than single days and selective groups".

However, this shift is to be welcomed and gives all activists the opportunity to campaign for a huge rejection in the ballot, alongside a call to escalate the action. The full resources of Unison and the leadership must now be mobilised, calling meetings to fight for the new strategy. Council workers still have the chance to secure a fair pay deal if we now adopt a strike strategy that will intensify the pressure on the employers and government.

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In The Socialist 15 October 2008:

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Socialist Party workplace news and analysis

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Local government Scotland: Reject the pay offer!

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Successful outcome for Suzanne Muna

Standing for president of Usdaw


 

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