Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 22 July 2008


Build further action after successful council strike

Unison Local Government strike 16-17 July in London, photo Paul Mattsson

Unison Local Government strike 16-17 July in London, photo Paul Mattsson

The successful local government strike on 16 and 17 July in England, Wales and Northern Ireland involving unions Unison and Unite, was the biggest strike so far in opposition to the government's pay freeze. By withdrawing their labour, care workers, librarians, bin workers, school staff and others, brought to everyone's attention the number of essential services they provide.

Many schools, libraries, bin depots and other services were closed or disrupted. In some areas, even services were affected that have been privatised out of local government.

Hundreds of thousands of Unison members and tens of thousands in Unite sacrificed two days' pay in protest against a 2.45% pay offer which has followed ten years of below-inflation pay deals in local government. Many of these workers are only on the minimum wage or little more, sometimes having to do an extra job to make ends meet.

Many workers had received letters from management urging them not to strike because vulnerable people and essential services would suffer. Yet these are the very workers who have to ensure these services function with fewer resources and low pay.

The strike was well supported throughout the country but could have been more solid had the union leaderships built for it in a more determined manner as soon as it was called. However the action encouraged a new fighting layer to turn out for picket lines, showing a layer of trade unionists who are becoming more active and looking for a fightback.

PCS union members in the Coastguards, Driving Service Agency and Home Office also took strike action during the same week and passport offices for three days the following week.

The Unison leadership avoided calling strike action for a number of years despite attacks on the pay and conditions of their members. But this strike showed that even leaders who are closely linked to New Labour have had to react to the growing anger of their members as expressed at the recent Unison national conference.

New Labour

Unison Local Government strike 16-17 July in London, photo Paul Mattsson

Unison Local Government strike 16-17 July in London, photo Paul Mattsson

These union leaders put the blame for the derisory pay offer purely onto the local government employers. Yet pay restraint, privatisation and cuts in local government have all been dictated by the Labour government, which council workers are well aware of.

Local authorities have made billions of 'efficiency' savings at the expense of council workers through privatisation, cuts in jobs and services and increased workloads. We must demand that they stop all cuts (except in the pay of chief executives and excessive expenses for councillors) and that the government properly fund councils to ensure improved services and decent pay for those who deliver them.

Anger towards New Labour and its funding by the unions was expressed on picket lines and at rallies. There was support for the Campaign for a New Workers' Party and at the London strike rally the hall resounded with a chant of "break the link".

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, has felt compelled to announce a review of the 1.5 million Unison gives to the Labour Party each year. But this issue would not even have got on the agenda at the recent Unison conference had delegates not voted to debate a motion which had been kept off the agenda - moved by Socialist Party member Glenn Kelly - calling for a review of the political fund.

Union members are gaining nothing from this funding. Before the present talks between Labour and the unions in Warwick, government ministers made it clear that the anti-trade union laws would remain, including the ban on secondary picketing. The link with Labour must be broken and union money used instead to fund election candidates who represent workers' interests.

Further action

Unison Local Government strike on 16-17 July in Lincoln, photo Lincoln Socialist Party

Unison Local Government strike on 16-17 July in Lincoln, photo Lincoln Socialist Party

Unions in local government must make plans for more action and not lose the impetus following the two-day strike. Local government workers in Scotland are currently balloting over pay with possible strikes in mid August and Unison are meeting this week to review their strike and consider more. GMB, not on strike with Unite and Unison, should re-run their ballot in local government and campaign for a 'yes' vote for action alongside other local government workers. Unions should consult their members in local government about how best to progress the action.

The PCS, which has already taken more action than most unions, is consulting its members in all sectors over the summer with plans to ballot for 12 days of varying strike action on pay in September consisting of sector and all-union action. The NUT national executive hopes to ballot in September for discontinuous action, although unfortunately this may not take place until late November.

Unison's health executive, which did not campaign among members against a three year pay deal averaging 2.6% a year, is meeting this week. A motion is on the agenda calling for pay negotiations to reopen on the basis that inflation levels have increased since the deal was agreed. If the Pay Review body refuses to recommend a better offer then Unison health alongside other health unions must prepare to ballot for strike action.

Calls for united action across the public sector received huge support at rallies and meetings during the council strike. In the absence of the TUC coordinating public sector action, the PCS have consistently invited other unions to discuss united action. If the leaders of other public sector unions were as committed to united action as their members, a much needed 24 hour public-sector strike would be possible.

With workers struggling to pay rocketing food and fuel bills and the economy in decline, such determined action is needed to avoid workers paying for this crisis.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 22 July 2008:

Stop The Gas Price Rip-Off

Car taxes add to inflation misery

Local government strike

Build further action after successful council strike

Reports of the Unsion strike

Pictures of the Unison strike

Socialist Party workplace news

Argos workers strike against insulting pay offer

London bus drivers' protest

PCS strikes

Usdaw election

Socialist Party news and analysis

Punishing the jobless for being jobless

Bankers' dirty tricks?

International socialist news and analysis

Say no to military attack on Iran

Political impasse in the Kurdish region of Iraq

Pakistan: 50,000 textile workers strike


Home   |   The Socialist 22 July 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleThe Great Big Socialist Party Quiz 2019

triangleNorthern Ireland: Health workers take action over understaffing and pay equality

trianglePCS union general secretary election

triangleMinimum wage debate

triangleNorthern Ireland: strike action by NHS workers


triangleSouth African Airways workers win wage increase after strike action

triangleStrikes: more determined than ever

triangleRoyal Mail court ruling - national reps meeting and solidarity action essential

triangleIt's a strike to ensure the safety of the travelling public


triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleHelp fund the fightback: sponsor my marathon

triangleCarmarthenshire union demands no-cuts budget

Local government:

triangleCorbyn promises 'power in the hands of workers' - how can Labour do it?

triangleTories prepare to attack education workers' pensions

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



End profiteering from health - nationalise big pharma



Prepare now for the struggles after 12 December


The Socialist

Keep up to date with our election coverage



News in brief



Hillsborough justice eluded



Unite against terrorism, racism, war and austerity


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: strike action by NHS workers



Resist attacks against free speech on campus



End council cuts now, to end Tory austerity!



Tories launch 'non manifesto'



Labour's manifesto: fight to transform hope into a socialist society



Prince Andrew outrage exposes establishment



Tory election campaign's dirty tricks and lies



Wages flatline, while shareholders profit



Broadband: privatisation has failed to deliver, time for a socialist plan

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019