UP TO 80,000 council workers across Scotland are set to stage their third one-day strike over pay on Thursday 16 November. The strike, by members of the UNISON union, comes after they voted by 68 percent to reject their employers' latest offer.
This week some 800 UNISON members in Scottish councils begin all-out strike action as part of the pay fight. This selective action involves small groups in each council, like finance workers, committee clerks and revenue-collecting workers. The New Labour dominated councils offered just 2.5 percent originally. After two solid one-day strikes in the summer they upped the offer, but only to around 3 percent, and tied it up in a two-year deal. That offer has now been thrown out, and action suspended during the ballot is now back on. Unfortunately leaders of the TGWU and GMB council unions accepted the latest offer last week.
The UNISON claim is for a 5 percent or 500 a year rise, whichever is greater, and a guaranteed minimum rate of 5 an hour to help the lowest paid. "People were really angry that the offer did nothing for the low paid," one council worker in East Ayrshire told Socialist Worker.
UNISON leaders have pinned their hopes on selective action by a few workers, backed up by one-day council-wide strikes. While this will hit the councils it could also see the dispute drag on unnecessarily. Activists need to press for the 16 November to be as big and lively as possible, but also push for wider strike action.
MANCHESTER COUNCIL was to discuss proposals on Monday that will rip the guts out of public housing in the city. The plan involves shutting 14 local housing offices, removing the counter service at all remaining offices, and setting up a call centre. The move is similar to the proposals that were partially beaten back by an all-out housing workers' strike in east London's Tower Hamlets last year.
The proposal will hit the most vulnerable and elderly tenants, who rely on face to face contact at a local office. It is also a major attack on staff. The current chaos in Manchester's housing benefit service is due to a similar call centre, and staff cuts. This has seen tenants across Manchester, in both private and public sectors, plunge into rent arrears as claims have taken months to process. Tenants activists planned a lobby of the council meeting on Monday.