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8 July 2008

Striking back against low pay

Lecturers out on strike on the same day as the teachers, photo Paul Mattsson

Lecturers out on strike on the same day as the teachers, photo Paul Mattsson

LAST WEEK, MPs kept their noses in the trough by voting to maintain their massive expenses and furnishing their second homes.

Josie Nichols, secretary, Leicestershire county Unison, (personal capacity)

Yet low paid local government workers, including cleaners, refuse collectors, care assistants and teaching assistants have been offered a paltry 2.45% pay increase.

With inflation running at 4.3%, petrol up 22%, bread up 9% and fuel bills 15%, the wage offer is in effect a pay cut and an insult. No wonder 600,000 local government workers belonging to Unison have voted to come out on strike on the 16 and 17 July.

What a cheek that workers are being told to tighten their belts because of the economic crisis caused by the fat cats' profit system. The question being asked by members I represent is, 'why should we pay for the mess they have made whilst they continue to line their pockets?'

Unison is asking its members to write to their councillors and MPs to ask them for support but many ask, 'what's the point?' The government listens to big business, not workers. Again, members have raised the question, 'why are we giving money through our union donations to this Labour government?'

Not only are they angry at how they are being treated, but they are also upset about the vulnerable people they care for. A worker who delivers meals on wheels told us at a Socialist Party stall that because the council had increased the dinners by 20p, one elderly woman cancelled a day's dinner. For her, the increase was the straw that broke the camel's back. With all the increases in fuel bills and other basics she had to cut back somewhere.

One union member commented that come the winter, decisions will have to be taken whether to 'heat or eat' as more workers struggle to make ends meet.

Faced with this hard-nosed government, this two-day strike is unlikely to be enough to win our pay claim. Unison alone could force the government to retreat but the most effective and quickest way of taking the struggle forward would be for united all-public sector strike action.