Socialist Worker

Yes vote in local government pay ballot, but no strike

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2075

There will be no strike in support of of the local government pay claim this year.

In the national industrial action ballot the result was 51.6 percent in favour of action and 48.4 percent against on a 24.4 percent turnout.

On Monday Unison’s NJC committee voted against taking strike action by 24 votes to three. This means here will be no strike to improve the below inflation pay offer of 2.475 percent or 19p per hour for the lowest paid.

The committee believed that with this majority and turnout it would be difficult to engage in the sustained industrial action needed to produce an improved offer. John McDermott, Unison national executive member, speaking in a personal capacity, said, “In the joint meeting of the service group executive and NJC prior to the vote there was a lengthy debate.

“I spoke in favour of action because of the democratic mandate, we simply need a majority to take action. It is a dangerous game to start deciding that we need a high percentage majority because is that 5 percent, 10 percent, 50 percent?

“I felt that the members who voted yes needed their voices to be heard. A 24.4 percent turnout given the postal strike and the reluctance to go hell for leather for a big yes vote by certain elements within Unison is a good turnout.”

The reason for the close vote was that much of the anger among local government workers was also held back by the Unison leadership’s handling of the ballot. Producing leaflets that were hardly enthusiastic for a yes vote and gave the impression long all out strike would be needed to win.

The reluctance to take coordinated action seriously also affected the result, Less that two months ago at the TUC, all the talk was of working together but it came to nothing.

The union leadership, because of its links to Labour, has never been in favour of strikes this year over low pay.

Their failure to coordinate a serious fight over single status, its half-hearted struggle for pension rights, and its attacks on union branches that criticise the government all added to the difficulties in getting a high turnout for action.

John McDermott added, “This has to be a warning to the employers for next year. We can build on the yes vote and be harder and smarter next year. We should look for a well coordinated campaign with the other unions and lodge the claim early.”

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Tue 30 Oct 2007, 19:36 GMT
Issue No. 2075
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