Socialist Worker

650,000 workers to strike against Brown's pay freeze

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2109

Hundreds of thousands of workers are gearing up to take on Gordon Brown's pay curbs.

Up to 650,000 local government workers in the Unison and Unite unions are to take two days of strike action on Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Teaching assistants, school cleaners and cooks, social workers, librarians, refuse workers, sports centre staff and many more will go on strike after rejecting a 2.45 percent pay offer.

The workers are demanding a rise of 6 percent or 50p an hour, whichever is higher. One third of local government workers earn less than £6.50 an hour.

Some 1,800 civil service workers in the PCS union at the Driving Standards Agency will also join them for the first day of the strike.

This is the latest stage in the battle against Labour's determination to keep wages down.

Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison branch secretary, said, 'A pay rise of 2.45 percent when inflation is over 4 percent is not only pitiful, it's insulting. In real terms, it's a pay cut.

'While City bonuses soar and the rich get richer, those who provide basic services to people are being laughed at.Whenever our members go on strike it shows who is vital to society.

'The rich could stay away forever and nobody would notice, but services like homecare have to be provided on a daily basis by caring people on low pay.'

In the run up to the strike council bosses have been accused of using 'scare tactics' to try to get workers not to join the action.

Unison said a number of councils, including those in Devon, Watford, Stockton-on-Tees and Fylde in Lancashire, had written to workers warning they would lose pay and have their pension service broken.

For instance a letter sent to workers in Stockton-on-Tees spells out exactly how much money workers will lose over the two days of strike action, saying, 'Please think carefully before going on strike.'

Activists have responded by pulling together to make the strike as successful as possible. Leeds Unison held a packed meeting last week to prepare for the strike.

According to Brian Mulvey, Leeds Unison branch secretary of local government, the meeting saw a record attendance.

Record

'It was very positive, with over 100 shop stewards there,' he said. 'Grim determination is the best way to describe it. Members feel they have been left with no choice, so people are determined to make the strike a success.

'We have had years of below-inflation pay rises. Members felt enough was enough this year – they couldn't take what would effectively be a pay cut.'

Up and down the country workers were meeting this week to organise picketing, and marches and rallies.

Workers in other unions can help build solidarity with the council workers – and momentum for their own struggles – by joining workers on the picket lines and bringing delegations to the protests.

The strike will be a lightning rod for pent-up frustration that ordinary people feel over being forced to work longer and longer for less pay.

That is why winning solidarity from those who are not striking, such as teachers, is possible. Striking can win a pay rise for local government workers.

It can give confidence to all those struggling in Brown's Britain. That's why we should all get behind the strike next week.

Socialist Worker will be printing a day later next week in order to carry your reports and pictures of the local government strikes. The paper will be printed on Wednesday 16 July.

Please send in your strike reports and photos by 11am on Wednesday morning. Email reports@socialistworker.co.uk or phone 020 7819 1180.

Socialist Worker is also producing a four-page pay special which will be available on the strike days.


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