Local government workers across Surrey struck on Thursday 21 December as part of their campaign over pay. The one-day strike was the second organised by the Unison union.
Surrey County Council has sought to impose a 2 percent pay deal on the workers, who, for historical reasons, have local pay bargaining rather than being included in national pay negotiations.
With price inflation running at almost 4 percent, the workers have argued for a 4 percent pay rise, or £500, whichever is greater, backdated to April 2006. Paul Couchman, Union’s convenor of adult services, told Socialist Worker, “This is a rabidly Tory council that does what it likes.”
He added that the union’s annual general meeting, set for 17 January, would decide whether further action takes place.
The union has been strengthened by the action. “Altogether we’ve had about 200 new applications,” said Paul. Just as importantly, many new union reps are being put in place.
The strikers have been buoyed up by the result of a parallel action by approved social workers in the council – one of the most highly unionised sections.
A threatened three-day strike by the social workers over the Christmas period, “forced management to come back with an offer within a day”, said Paul.
Joint meetings will now take place to resolve problems with long hours and low staffing levels. The social workers will get overtime payments if they work later than 5pm and a £1,000 goodwill payment.
Overtime payments are “almost unprecedented” in the council, according to the strikers.
Brendan Melvin, an approved social worker on the picket line during the one-day strike, explained why overtimes was such a big issue. “If something comes in at 4.30pm, we stay and deal with it,” he said. “People were working till 10pm or 11pm then taking time off in lieu.”
However, the wider battle for decent pay for all council staff will continue.
Send donations to Unison office, County Hall, Penrhyn Road, Kingston, Surrey KT1 2DN. Make cheques payable to Surrey County Unison. E-mail messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org