Striking Against Low Pay

NEW LABOUR has backtracked on its refusal to raise the minimum wage. Growing anger from low-paid workers and even union leaders and MPs has forced the government to concede a paltry 10p a week increase.

Josie Nicholls, Leicester

But it’s still got strings attached and is nowhere near enough to wipe out poverty pay in the private or public sector. The 1.4 million members of public-sector union UNISON are in the final stages of balloting for a new general secretary.

Socialist Party member and Campaign for a Fighting Democratic UNISON candidate Roger Bannister has said that if elected he will “be mobilising low-paid UNISON members to take all appropriate action, including industrial action, to achieve UNISON’s demand for a £5 an hour minimum wage for all with no exceptions”.

Roger is also, unlike top UNISON officials, backing striking Leicestershire care workers who, like many public-sector workers around the country, are facing attacks from New Labour councils and the government.

A mass rally last week of 300 of the careworkers angrily opposed the ‘buy out’ (compensation) offers they’d received after management attempts to end their weekend pay enhancements. The careworkers are striking against these proposals, which for some could mean losing up to £1,800 a year.

Management threats of privatisation and the ‘buy out’ letters backfired on them when the mass meeting voted overwhelmingly for further strike action. “It’s a joke” and “insult” were just some of the comments as some strikers ripped up their ‘buy-outs’.

Over 100 workers have joined the union since the ballot for action. The next three-day strike starts on Sunday 20 February.

Earlier in the strike regional UNISON officials had attempted to suspend the strike in favour of binding arbitration without consulting the strikers themselves. The workers now intend to take control of their strike and are setting up a strike committee with representatives from all the homes and the home care workers.

A rally has been organised for this Sunday. They are calling on trade unionists from around the country to support it – be there!

· Rally – 1pm, Leicestershire County Hall, Glenfield, Leicester (follow A50 from Junction 22 of M1).

· Messages of support and donations: Hardship fund, Leicestershire County UNISON Branch, County Hall, Glenfield, Leicester.