The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 27th June 2014
LOCAL government unions are promising that the Con-Dem Coalition is facing “the biggest ever” strike on 10th July unless it agrees to a significant pay rise for all local government employees — including teachers and other education staff. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis has said the walkout could be bigger than the 1926 General Strike.
And the GMB and the giant union Unite, which together represent hundreds of thousands of local government workers, are also balloting to strike on the same day.
Only ten per cent of the lowest paid local government workers would receive an above-inflation pay rise under the current offer. But their take-home pay has fallen by a fifth since 2010.
Over 85,000 teaching assistants, planners, administrators, social workers, engineers and school support workers voted in the ballot, with 58.7 per cent backing strike action and 41.3 per cent rejecting the move.
The National Union of Teachers has also announced a one-day strike on 10th July.
The NUT said the Government was still failing to make progress on a long-running dispute over pay, pensions and workload.
"The talks are still only about the implementation of Government policies, not about the fundamental issues we believe to be detrimental to education and the profession," said Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT.
"For teachers, performance- related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and heavy workload for 60 hours a week is unsustainable," she added.
PCS ballots members
Meanwhile the civil service union PCS is also balloting its quarter of a million members on whether to join the other public sector unions in the 10th July strike.
Under the slogan: “Britain needs a pay rise”, the union has long argued for joint industrial action over the government's pay freeze and cap.
It is also planning a campaign of sustained targeted industrial action over pay and job cuts in the civil service, and calling on ministers and senior officials to get round the negotiating table.
The HM Revenue and Customs part of PCS is currently engaged in a series of rolling one-day strikes over job cuts that have left HMRC virtually unable to carry out its basic functions.
Living standards ‘slashed’
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "For purely political reasons, this Government has slashed the living standards of already low-paid public servants.
"With the cost of living continuing to rise faster than wages, it is clear there is no economic recovery in sight for millions of people and that Britain still needs a pay rise."
Health sector unions are balloting to take part in further mass joint-union actions in the autumn. They have been particularly badly hit as they are not even being offered the miserly one-per cent pay rise that local government unions have rejected.
Inflation figures show that year after year all these workers — and workers in the private sector — have been steadily suffering effective pay cuts.
Local government unions have been campaigning for a £1-an-hour across the board pay rise. But even this will only partly restore what they have lost over recent years.
The unions involved in the 10th July strike and the coming strike this autumn were involved in the massive public sector strike in November 2011 that promised to build into further strikes to bring down the Coalition.
But the Government made a divisive response and the unions lost cohesion when they had to consult their membership before responding.
In particular angry work- ers felt badly let down by the Unison leadership dragging its heels and the momentum was lost.
So this time round, with next year’s general election on the horizon, members will be keeping up the pressure on their unions to follow through with more mass coordinated action.
This will not only be very damaging to the Tories and Liberal Democrats but it will also put big pressure on an incoming Labour government to deliver on better wages and conditions for public sector workers.