The struggle over the implementation of the single status pay deal at Birmingham council has reached a new stage.
In an impressive series of mass meetings last week, workers repeatedly voted overwhelmingly in favour of resuming strike action.
The council had come up with a new offer but its determination to stick with wage cuts and to push performance related pay has fuelled anger over the proposed deal.
Depsite the council discovering a further £9 million to fund the package after strike action last month, the union meetings made it clear that workers are still furious with the pay and grading system.
The offer included some extended protection terms for staff who are set to lose out under single status and the promise of slightly better terms for some low paid workers.
But as one worker put it, “My pay is being reduced by £3,500 a year. The fact that the council are reducing it in stages is cold comfort. Why would I do anything other than endorse my union doing anything other than opposing it?”
Many workers want to stick to the Birmingham Unison policy of:
- Withdrawal of the imposed contracts
- Withdrawal of the seven grade structure
- Scrapping performance related pay
- No to flexibility
- No to compulsory monthly pay
For many others the sticking point is to the introduction of an annual “contribution assessment” to determine pay rises. As one angry worker put it, “that’s performance related pay by any other name”.
A union official said, “I think management have shot themselves in the foot.
“When I went to the meetings yesterday, I really didn’t know how it would go because there is better protection and an uplift for lots of women workers. That extra £9 million isn’t to be sniffed at.
“But people aren’t fools, and they saw through the ‘contribution assessment’ and recognised it for what it was. People were really cross.”
It doesn’t follow that there will automatically be another strike as management could yet be persuaded to offer further compromises.
One worker told Socialist Worker, “The meeting I was at last Thursday was extremely calm. I was quite surprised myself by the strength of the vote. I suspect it is as much because of the attitude of council towards its workforce as because of the failure to properly address significant concerns.”
The council could of course come up with a better offer but instead council boss Alan Rudge is now calling for a new ballot – claiming the meetings were taken over by “rabble rousers and the far left”.
The joint unions should move swiftly to push for the action agreed at the meetings.
The meetings resolved that the unions would lobby councillors in marginal seats in the run up to the local elections and move towards strike action in April—specifically to join teachers and lecturers in their first day of strike action. And they resolved to strike on and before election day in May.