Scotland: Council pay battle at critical stage

Scotland: Council pay battle at critical stage

Scotland’s council workers are entering a key phase in their campaign to secure a decent wage rise. The magnificent day of action on 20 August saw almost 200,000 workers across the three trade unions take united strike action that forced the employers to move from a three-year offer to a one-year deal.

Brian Smith, International Socialists (CWI Scotland) and Glasgow Unison, personal capacity

The arguments about how poor the current offer of 2.5% is have been won across the board. Even the employers and the Scottish government say they recognise the pressures on living standards.

However, as yet there has been no real change in the original offer from CoSLA, the local government employers.

Whilst this one-year deal is to be welcomed it does not alter the fact that 2.5% over one year is still a real cut in wages with inflation at least 5% and the costs of basic foods, energy, transport and fuel rising even faster.

The trade union leaders promoted a strategy of a one-day strike, backed up by selective action by small groups. However they have been slow to react to the employers’ increasingly hardline position by naming dates for action.

There is a growing feeling that the trade union leaders are lagging behind the mood of the majority of their members, and that travelling at the pace of the slowest branch or trade union could lead to a strategy with little chance of moving the employers.

Many members are questioning the impact that the selective action will have as neither the GMB or Unite appear to have identified groups to take action.

At a meeting of the 32 Unison branches on 5 September, the Glasgow branch (in which members of the International Socialists play a key role) put forward a position of a two-day all-out strike in September followed by three days in October, along with a restriction on the amount of emergency cover provided during strikes.

Unfortunately, this position was lost at the meeting, with the leadership, supported by leading members of the Scottish Socialist Party, arguing that the members would not back such an escalation. Others attempted to stifle debate through procedural methods.

However, the trade unions have now called a further one day of action on 24 September and all local activists must now focus on delivering another huge strike across Scotland.

It is also crucial that workplace union stewards and members begin to discuss what they see as the next step in the campaign and participate in their local trade union branch in an effort to escalate the action.

Let’s build 24 September into another shutdown of local government, whilst also calling on the trade union leaders to name more all-out days now.

Let’s show CoSLA and the Scottish and UK governments that we will not accept their pay cuts.