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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Pay Battles

by New Worker correspondent

Naturally, old fashioned pay disputes have not, of course, gone away.

The 1,600 whisky workers at Chivas Brothers took strike action that secured them a modest pay rise, which brought them up to the industry average. In the same industry, workers at Whyte & MacKay have won an above inflation pay rise of five per cent.

Employees of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) won a 13 per cent three-year pay deal by threatening strike action, while many other workers such as the DHL drivers and warehouse workers at Liverpool won an improved pay offer after 10 days of strike action.

The biggest pay battles took place in local government and the National Health Service however, where workers pointed out that clapping was no substitute for decent wages. Even the right-wing Royal College of Nursing (RCN) set up a £35 million strike-fund.

There were also many battles in the retail industry, with all the major supermarket chains facing industrial action from workers working in their shops, warehouses and on the roads in-between.

Postal workers secured a decent pay rise in April of between 4.7 and 7.1 per cent, while in June The Times expressed horror that kitchen porters were getting paid as much as £10.00 per hour. Construction workers and farm workers have also been enjoying improved wages due to the departure of many eastern European workers, but the agricultural workers in particular will need a much stronger union than they presently have in order to maintain these gains.

The refuse collectors of both the London borough of Bexley and in Brighton won good deals.

Some supermarkets made seemingly generous improvements to the hourly rate, but these came with reductions in unsocial hours and overtime rates. Tesco’s drivers are threatening to strike in the days immediately before Christmas.

Threatening to strike at the employer’s busiest time is always good tactics. In the run up to the COP26 Conference in Glasgow rail union RMT won a long-running battle by threatening to increase its industrial action just as delegates were arriving in the city.