We are taking to the picket lines this week with over 150,000 other local government workers. Colleagues in the Unite and the GMB unions are striking with us.
We are taking 24-hour strike action because we are determined to stop our low wages being effectively cut further with a below-inflation 2.5 percent pay offer.
Low paid workers should not be forced to pay for the economic crisis. Rising inflation is not caused by wage rises – and it is not going to be solved by wage cuts.
Local government workers on the lowest grade earn just £5.81 per hour. The current pay offer would add only an extra 15p an hour.
It is outrageous that the Westminster and Scottish governments think that local government workers can accept wage cuts as we enter into recession.
Like millions of other workers in Britain we are all worried about how we are going to pay for heating and gas, and put food on the table.
We are told that wage rises would mean other cuts. But why should our wages subsidise councils because Gordon Brown won’t fund public services?
Many of us work hard delivering services that we care about. Yet time and again we have seen our working conditions attacked and our pay fall. Now is the time to stand and fight.
Our first strike in August forced the employers – the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) – to re-open talks and admit that the current rate of inflation should be taken into account.
But in the first meeting, the employers’ representatives said that any increase in the offer would only be in tenths of a percent.
Then they said there would be no increase at all on the previous offer of 2.5 percent.
Their only concession was to limit the pay deal to a single year instead of three.
They then had the cheek to suggest that they and the unions should jointly approach the Scottish government to ask for more money and to set up a joint working party on low pay.
Cosla have accused our negotiators of making “fantasy” demands by putting forward our claim for a 5 percent wage increase, or £1,000 if that is greater.
The reality is that if we get a 5 percent rise then we will not have had a pay cut. That’s not fantasy – it’s economic necessity.
The employers have tried to undermine the unions’ confidence – in particular there have been threats that a number of schools that closed during the last strike will open this time.
But the strength of our action can put them on the back foot again.
We are not alone in our fight. Civil service workers in the PCS union at the Scottish Courts Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s Service struck on Tuesday.
Bectu members in Glasgow are also striking on Wednesday.
Across the public sector there is fury against the attacks on wages. Our strength is our unity. It is important that all the local government unions are taking action together.
In October the planned two waves of Scotland-wide selective strike action, and the third wave of selective action organised by branches, need to be as successful as possible.
We must repeat the vibrant picket lines and ensure there are rallies that can involve workers who are not on strike to give them the chance to show their support for those who are.
We also need to push for more widespread joint strikes should make links with others fighting over pay.
Together we can win.
March and rally Edinburgh, Wednesday 24 September. Assemble 12.30pm outside City Chambers, High Street. Rally at 1.45pm, Ross Bandstand, West Princes Street Gardens