Socialist Worker

What is single status and how should we fight it?

Issue No. 2090

Up and down Britain council workers are being saddled with Gordon Brown’s public sector pay freeze – and at the same time face councils using single status to attack them.

Single status deals are supposed to deliver a common pay scale and harmonisation of conditions for all jobs.

But the government has refused to give local authorities the extra funds to pay for those who are supposed to gain from the deal.

Every authority was supposed to implement a deal by 1 April 2007, but only about a third of councils have reached agreements.

Some councils are now openly admitting they don’t expect agreements to be reached until 2012.

Many councils are targeting key groups of workers in order to soften them up for privatisation.

Others are using single status as an excuse to push through cuts in services.

But council workers are fighting back. This week alone there are protests in Waltham Forest, Leeds, Edinburgh, and Islington over council attacks. Workers at both East Lothian and Blackburn with Darwen councils are involved in ballots for action.

But unfortunately, the lack of a national focus so far has left many workers isolated, and some feel they have no choice but to resort to the courts to get decent pay.

The union leaderships have used these legal cases as an excuse to prevent a national focus emerging, or in some cases even discussing single status.

There needs to be a national fight against the attacks. That means demanding the right to discuss single status in union meetings and conferences.

It also means an end to the unions being prepared to have some level of fightback against Tory or Liberal councils but holding back any resistance in Labour controlled councils.

Birmingham shows that bullying councils can potentially be stopped. We need to build on that experience to have a national campaign that forces the Labour government to fund councils to have equal and fair pay without any cuts in wages, jobs or services.

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