THE NEW WORKER

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 21st April 2017


Scottish council workers ballot for strike action

AROUND 3,000 local government workers, including refuse collectors, school cleaners and care home staff, are balloting for strike action against the paltry one per cent pay rise offer that, taking inflation into account, is in effect a pay cut.

Many of these workers are already struggling to survive on their current low wages and fear the effective cuts will push them over the edge into spiralling debt and economic collapse.

The local government union Unison is balloting 70,000 members in Scotland for strike action that would bring services to a standstill.

A nursery worker, who asked not to be named, told the press how she has been left with “no choice” but to picket. She explained: “The last thing anybody wants to do is go out on strike. It has an impact on us because we lose a day’s wages, but it also takes a toll on the children and their families.

“Morale is at rock-bottom and everybody feels so undervalued, like we’re just numbers.

“Workers are having to change their lifestyles and their shopping habits. We’re having to do without to just get by.

“If wages aren’t improved, then nobody is going to want to stay or come into our line of work and services will suffer.

“It’s time for them to wake up and realise how important the staff is.”

Schools, disabled services, community groups and carers centres could all be rocked by closures. Streets could be left piled up with rubbish, wardens taken off patrol and sports clubs, swimming pools and recycling centres shut.

Renfrewshire Council workers, including dinner ladies, librarians, street cleaners, bus drivers, janitors, crossing guards and wardens will all be given a vote on whether to strike.

Leisure centre staff, Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park employees, and those at national procurement group Renfrewshire Excel and Renfrewshire Valuation Joint Board will also be balloted.

inflation

Growing inflation and restraints on pay mean that their wage packets are worth less now than 10 years ago. Living standards are being squeezed as the prices of food, gas and electricity, travel, food and childcare continue to rise and salaries remain stagnant.

And, whilst the cost of goods is increasing, help given to families is being stripped out. Workers have been offered £350 extra per year if they earn less than £35,000, whilst those on more get a one per cent hike.

The Office for National Statistics this week revealed inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, has hit 2.3 per cent. It says that food prices have leapt 1.2 per cent in the last 12 months — the biggest annual rise in three years.Clothing and footwear costs also jumped two per cent between February and March this year. Trade union bosses say greater pressure on families is driving them to the brink and have called for an above-inflation pay offer.

Home care workers are on just £16,900, but could benefit from an extra £3,000 if wages rose in line with inflation; Early-years staff would see their salary increase from £20,400 to £24,100; and library assistants would earn £4,000 more, up to £26,400.

Unison will call on 70,000 members to decide on walk-outs after 77.6 per cent rejected the one per cent offer.

Mark Ferguson, the organisation’s branch secretary for Renfrewshire, has called for a fairer deal for struggling workers. He said: “The cost of food, gas and electricity, travel and childcare continue to rise and, as a consequence, their living standards have been severely eroded. This cannot continue.”

Dave Prentis, who is Unison’s general secretary, said: “Public sector staff have certainly not seen their earnings increase in many years. Instead, their pay keeps falling behind inflation meaning nurses, care workers and town hall staff are suffering real financial hardship. It’s time ministers looked again at their pay policy and gave public sector employees a decent pay rise.”