Socialist Worker

Mass strike across Scottish councils

Issue No. 2120

The march in Edinburgh (Pic: Duncan Brown)

The march in Edinburgh (Pic: Duncan Brown)


More than 150,000 local government workers struck across Scotland today.

In an impressive and show of unity, workers from the Unison, Unite and GMB unions are taking 24-hour strike action against the government attempt to curb their pay.

The strike shut schools and stopped rubbish collection, ferry crossings and many other council services. It marks the second walkout in five weeks.

Workers are seeking a 5 percent pay rise instead of the 2.5 percent offered by the government and the employers.

Unite regional organiser Tommy Campbell said, “The government has acted to bail out banks in the last few days, so why can’t it do the same for council workers on low pay?

“The finance minister should intervene to encourage the employers to make an improved pay offer.”

Across Scotland at least 1,000 schools were closed. For instance, in Aberdeen, 41 schools were fully or partially closed, while 11 libraries and 14 sports centres were shut.

In Aberdeenshire 29 schools are be closed or partially closed.

In Highland Council registrars across the region are closed. Around 20 secondary and 50 primary schools are be fully partially closed.

A march and demonstration is to take place in Edinburgh, with a rally in Princes Street Gardens. Other rallies are being held in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee and Inverness.

Today's walkout follows another yesterday, when 1,700 members of the PCS civil service workers union held a one-day strike. The action disrupted a number of sheriff courts, sportscotland and the National Museums of Scotland.


Edinburgh

The strike was strongly supported in Edinburgh. Luke Henderson, the assistant branch secretary of Edinburgh Unison, told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “The strike was even more solid than last time at Chesser House – one of the two main council workplaces in the city.

“There was a bigger turn out on the picket line with 16 people there from Unison and Unite. We turned away a couple of people and delivery vans.

“A network of union stewards have been very effective in mobilising for the strike – talking to members, putting up posters and getting out emails with all the arguments in them.

“The key argument we have been having is about the need to strike to defend our lowest paid members, who are suffering most as the prices on basic goods increase.”

Duncan Smith, the chair of Edinburgh city Unison, told Socialist Worker, 'Roughly the same number of people took action at my workplace this time. This affected the running of the HQ building, which was not functioning as normal.

'We need to have a serious debate among all of the union's members about the need for more action involving everyone to take the dispute forward and to win.'


Dundee

Emma Lightfoot reports from Dundee, “There was a march and demonstration of around 500 people today, with people solidly supporting the strike. There has been lots of support and solidarity from other unions, including the FBU and the NUT.

“Families and young children turned out for the march as cleaners and other school workers are on strike. They have been joining in with the chanting and the whole mood is positive and determined.”

Arthur Nicoll, terms and conditions secretary of Dundee city Unison (pc), said, “The strike has been as good as it was last time or better. This was very good as the way things are going a day’s pay is a lot for people to lose.

“In some workplaces one or two more people went into work, but in other areas, such as social care, the mood is hardening and more people came out this time, due to the way that management is treating them.

“Some 400 people from all three unions marched to the city centre on a noisy protest, capping a very good day. People are digging in and the mood was good among strikers.”

Rory Malone, branch secretary of Dundee Unison, told Socialist Worker, “The strike’s been very strong, stronger than the last day of action. More people are coming out on strike and more services are being affected.

“There’s a lot of anger at the employers’ derisory offer. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work it out – our lowest paid workers would have to work a day and a half to for this pay rise to cover the price of a loaf of bread.

“We are sending a clear message to all the politicians in Scotland – whether they’re local or MPs – that they need to stand up and listen to trade unionists, or 500,000 public service workers will bring them down.”


Glasgow

There were lively pickets at every entrance to Glasgow’s City Chambers. The strikers were pleased to see the building shut down – lights were out across the entire site.

Members of three striking unions picketed together – the feeling of unity boosting confidence and morale.

Around 50 pickets gathered at the waste depot at Polmadie. Glasgow GMB union convenor for land and environmental services, Tommy Asken, told Socialist Worker, “The 2.5 percent pay offer belongs to a different era. The official inflation rate is now double that, but food and gas are going up much faster.

“Many of us have wives who also work for the council so whole families are out on strike today.

“The employers must make the money available to pay low paid manual workers.

“It’s no good Alex Salmond blaming Gordon Brown or Brown blaming Salmond. To us they’re all employers.”

Alan Thomson, a Unison shop steward in Glasgow, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.

“My workplace, Centenary House, runs social services for the whole of Glasgow. In August we had a very solid strike but I’d say it was doubly solid this time. Very few people went in – last time around 40 people crossed the picket line, but this time it was around 20.

“A building worker from the Ucatt union came and visited the picket line – they had been on strike in June. Lots of people were beeping their horns in support as they drove passed our picket line. I think there is a higher awareness of the strike among ordinary people now.

“All the primary schools are shut. The council is officially keeping secondary schools open but whether they are actually functioning is another question.

“Our branch has taken two buses to the Scotland-wide rally in Edinburgh and the GMB has also taken a bus.

“Since the strike in August lots of people have joined the union because they can see that it’s fighting back. There is a debate over the strategy of selective action. Glasgow Unison branch is officially against the strategy and lots of people are against it. People don’t want to be used as cannon fodder – they want to come out with everyone else.”


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