Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/540/6226
The Socialist 2 July 2008 |
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Local government strike action: Workers say: 'enough is enough!'
The pages of the national press have been full of the statistics for months. Bread up 44%, pasta up 20%, utility bills are likely to rise by 40% and petrol is going up faster than you can measure it. These statistics would be getting boring if they weren't so serious.
Marc Glasscoe, Branch Secretary, Lincoln City Unison (personal capacity)
For anybody with the most basic grasp of maths it is quite clear that a pay 'award' of 2.45% will be a pay cut in real terms under these conditions. This is why Unison members working in local government have voted to take strike action on 16 and 17 July. This isn't an act of selfishness or greed. This is the act of workers who simply cannot take any more. We've been backed into a corner and we're coming out fighting!
Of course, the statistics only tell one side of the story. The other side has an all too human face. One work colleague told me how she was voting for strike action for the first time in her life. With two children, a dual income and a nice home, she is the model to which we are all supposed to aspire.
The epitome of middle England, she has decided to take a stand and fight back against what she sees as the government's attacks on her and her family. With rising prices, increasing bills and a mortgage to pay, collective action is the only option.
These problems are not confined to the middle layers of the workforce. Low-paid clerical and administrative staff - workers delivering front line services across all grades - are feeling the effects of this government's pay restraint policy.
Alistair Darling has said that he wants us to avoid an 'inflationary spiral.' He is concerned that we might get "into a position where every penny extra you get through pay rises is eaten up through price rises". Well, I've got news for our esteemed Chancellor; we've got the price rises, we just don't have the pay rises to go with them!
Many Unison members have approached me saying that they are going to find it hard to support the strike. They know why we are taking a stand but things are so tight that they can't afford to lose two days' pay. However, if we don't take a stand now, things can only get worse.
This government is determined to tie us into three-year below-inflation pay awards. With inflation getting progressively higher, there is no sign of the economic crisis abating. The gap between what we earn and what we need to spend is getting ever wider. Whatever our personal financial circumstances, the brutal fact is this: we can't afford NOT to strike!