Local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland voted for action after rejecting the employers’ pay offer of just 1%. The first strike day took place on 10 July and a second strike will happen on Tuesday 14 October.
Members of Hampshire UNISON were among the million plus public service workers who took part in joint strike action on 10 July, attending picket lines and rallies. Our message to the employers was clear: that they must show us the respect we deserve and improve our pay offer. UNISON has continued to campaign for fair pay over the summer, lobbying MPs and councillors. We have worked hard to get employers to negotiate a deal, but the employers won’t talk to us about a better offer, or join us for independent arbitration through ACAS. So now we are preparing for a second day of strike action on Tuesday 14 October.
Locked out of negotiations, locked out of economic recovery…
As local government workers we clean the schools, educate and care for children, look after the elderly and vulnerable, conduct marriages and civil partnerships, care for parks, and check the safety of the food on our tables. We do it all despite savage cuts to vital services. Almost half a million of our jobs have gone. Those of us left are doing far more for far less. Most UNISON members are low-paid, part-time women workers, often struggling to pay household bills. Losing pay for strike action is not something we do lightly.
We are not asking for the 14% pay increase company bosses and bankers are getting. Or the 11% MPs will see. We are just asking for a rise of at least £1 an hour. That would mean almost half a million council and school support workers currently earning below the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour could come off in-work benefits.
UNISON members: 5 reasons to go on strike
1. You can’t afford another pay and pension cut. The current government offer leaves most workers with pay worth almost 20% less than in 2010. Falling pay also means loss of pension for the rest of your life.
2. You are worth fair pay for the work you do. Your pay and conditions are the worst in the public sector – from top to bottom.
3. Taking another pay cut won’t save jobs and services. Despite a pay freeze, jobs have gone and services continue to be stripped to the bone, privatised or stopped all together. There’s no reason to believe a pay cut will stop this.
4. All this will continue unless we act now. Low pay is bad for workers and bad for the economy. Many local government workers rely on benefits to pay bills. Right now, the taxpayer is subsidising local government to pay poverty wages.
5. Our claim for a minimum of £1 more an hour for all is affordable. Paying all local government workers a living wage will boost Treasury coffers by around £0.9bn every year from increased tax and national insurance take – shifting many off in-work benefits and reducing the bill to taxpayers.
Britain deserves a pay rise…
Local government workers are not the only ones considering industrial action over pay. UNISON, Unite, the GMB and the Royal College of Midwives are in the process of balloting almost half a million NHS workers. They could all strike on 13 October, the day before more than a million local government workers walk out. This has the potential to be an electric week of struggle against Tory cuts and austerity, culminating with the mass TUC demonstration on Saturday 18 October, which can begin to turn the tide on poverty pay – let’s make that potential a reality.