Across the country local government activists are campaigning for a huge yes vote in the Unison union strike ballot over pay.
Workers covered by the ballot include care home and home care assistants, housing and environmental health officers, refuse collectors, librarians and school cooks.
Mike Tucker, Unison branch secretary for Southampton, told Socialist Worker, “The 850,000 Unison members working in local government in England and Wales are being balloting for strike action over the employers’ 2007-8 pay offer.
“Council workers are being offered a pay cut in real terms.
“With the current annual increase in the cost of living at over four percent, council workers are being asked by local government employers to accept a reduction in wages that are already low.
“Councillors in Southampton have been given a 3.5 per cent increase in their allowances. Council staff deserve an increase which at the very least matches that.
“The annual claim, which was due to be settled on 1 April, is for a pay increase of 5 percent or £1,000, whichever is the greater.
“Included in the strike ballot in our area are 250 Unison members who transferred to Capita on 1 October when the council privatised 500 jobs.
“The ballot closes on 26 October. If we vote in favour of action, an initial two-day strike will be held in mid November.”
The “final” offer from Gordon Brown’s government is a pathetic 19p an hour rise for workers on the lowest pay point, giving an hourly rate of £6. It offers only 2.475 percent for all other workers.
The offer also comes with strings – a review of conditions of employment such as leave, and a review of the “total reward package”.
These “reviews” are about looking for ways to cut and change conditions, just as was done with pensions.
Striking local government workers would not be fighting alone.
Postal workers are in a crucial battle against pay cuts and to defend public services. Civil service workers in the PCS union are voting over action.
Unison local government branches and union members need to build for a massive yes vote, calling workplace meetings and making links with postal workers and civil service workers.