Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/777/17297
Unison: Tiny margin against Scottish local government strike
A Unison member
Unison members in Scottish local government have voted by a very narrow margin not to strike over pay. The ballot of 75,000 members saw 49.8% vote in favour of three days of strike action with 50.2% voting against. Members had voted by a margin of 3:2 in an earlier consultative ballot to reject the 1% pay offer, which is of course a pay cut in real terms.
The GMB trade union accepted the offer months ago. Unite members rejected the offer at the same time as Unison members, however their trade union has not as yet run an official strike ballot.
Some Unison branches argued for acceptance of the offer from day one but the closeness of the ballot shows that it was correct to adopt the Glasgow branch's position of testing the mood of the members by campaigning for a 'yes' vote based on the principle of not recommending further cuts in their living standards. If this campaigning approach had been adopted by more branches, a 'yes' vote would have been won.
But the result is a set-back in the fight against the Con-Dems' attacks on working class people's living standards. These attacks are being implemented on behalf of the Con-Dems by the Labour and SNP dominated Scottish local councils employers' group.
Some Unison members may understandably remain to be convinced that individual trade unions striking in isolation can defeat the austerity measures of Westminster and Holyrood. They may be affected by the idea that against the backdrop of 35,000 lost jobs in local government in Scotland since 2009, they are fortunate to have a permanent job.
Others may have accepted the council employers' argument that they don't have the money to make higher pay awards. Some low-paid workers may have been persuaded that the introduction of a "Scottish local government living wage" of £7.50 an hour was a decent concession by the employers.
It is also likely that the delay in the official strike ballot may have created a feeling among some members that it was too late to fight on an offer that was due from April 2013.
The offer was tabled in December 2012 and the official strike ballot did not begin until July this year. The fact that the ballot was conducted over the summer holidays was also an obstacle to mobilising members.
However, it is important to point out that Unison proposed an initial three-day strike programme, rather than the usual "one day and review" approach adopted in previous national ballots, and that nearly half of members voted to support that programme.
This setback may be shortlived. And it can be overcome by a movement over other issues, including an inevitable below-inflation offer from the employers for next year.
It is the job of left branches and activists to build the mood and morale of members for the struggles ahead and to continue to fight for effective industrial action, including the building of a 24-hour general strike to defeat the cuts.
In The Socialist 28 August 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
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'Youth Fight for Jobs' campaigning
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